The Many Crossovers of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

There have been so many different incarnations of the Heroes in a Half Shell and between them, they've seemingly met just about everyone!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has covered a lot of ground in the past 35 years. There are so many different takes on “four reptiles in eye masks who fight crime with ninjitsu” that it’s honestly hard to keep count of all the different continuities. From the gritty Frank Miller homages of the earliest comics to goofball cartoon characters to CGI hunchbacks in the latest two movies, there have been a wide range of interpretations.

Like all popular properties, the Ninja Turtles have done their share of crossovers. They’ve met all kinds of characters and rubbed elbows with so many different franchises. They’ve fought alongside everyone from Archie to Batman to Alf. You can basically plug and play them into any situation at this point.

Starting, fittingly enough, in the Mirage days, the Turtles’ first crossover came in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #8. Turtle creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird teamed together with Dave Sim and Gerhard to do a story where the foursome met up with Sim’s magnum opus character Cerebus. Otherwise known as the star of “that once-beloved barbarian aardvark comic that went off the rails once Sim grew to hate women.”

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In the story, we’re introduced to Renet, a time-travel witch with no pants who acts as an apprentice to a strict master, who she’s deathly afraid of. After screwing up, she steals a magic scepter and hides out in 1986 New York City, immediately coming into contact with the Turtles. Escaping her master once again, she brings all of them to 1406, where they run afoul of Cerebus the Aardvark. The three parties reluctantly team up with the easily-disgruntled Cerebus annoyed by the mere presence of the Turtles while the Turtles are constantly annoyed by Renet’s never-ending, airheaded attitude. A year after this issue, the Turtles and Cerebus – once again depicted by Eastman, Laird, and Sim – would briefly meet up in the pages of Miami Mice #4, where Cerebus again wanted to distance himself from the four.

Also in 1986, the memorable Donatello Micro-Series issue (the one where he teamed up with Jack Kirby) ended with a pin-up by Stan Sakai, depicting the Turtles surrounding his own anthromorphic swordsman creation Miyamoto Usagi from the comic Usagi Yojimbo. 1987 brought us a comic called Turtle Soup, where various comic creators would do short stories featuring the Ninja Turtles. Sakai got to write a storyline where due to some magical residue brought on from his adventure with Renet, Leonardo is sent spiraling through time and ends up in an adventure with Usagi. The two are attacked by the same pack of enemies and cut them down until they are the only ones left. They turn their attentions to each other and are about to go at it, but Leonardo returns to the present, causing Usagi to run through nothing and crash into a tree.

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That began a lengthy relationship between the two properties. Miyamoto Usagi became the Alien to the Ninja Turtles’ Predator. In the Mirage comics, Leonardo made several more trips into Usagi’s time and eventually brought his brothers with him. Usagi got his own action figure as part of Playmates’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line, showed up in a couple video games, and two of the animated series. In the ’80s cartoon he was named Usagi Yojimbo, I suppose for simplicity’s sake, where he was stranded on Earth after being pulled in from an alternate reality. He starred in two episodes.

The 4Kids cartoon had him show up more often, also from an alternate reality, though they played up his relationship with Leonardo more than the ’80s cartoon. When they did the Flash Forward part of the series where the Turtles were in the future, they intended to introduce his comic book descendant Space Usagi, but that never came to be.

One of the more entertaining crossovers came in the form of Flaming Carrot Comics #25 to #27 by Bob Burden, where Raphael gets stricken with amnesia and ends up becoming the sidekick to mentally-lacking superhero the Flaming Carrot. Raphael ends up wearing a sack on his head and a cape that says “BREAD” on it, calling himself the Night Avenger. Instead, the authorities call him Bread Boy. The two of them, later joined by the rest of the Turtles and Mysterymen member Screwball, work together to prevent a group of evil umpires from using the disembodied head of Frankenstein’s Monster to steal the Empire State Building. It was very, very weird.

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The two parties would meet up again a few years later in a four-issue Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Flaming Carrot crossover with Jim Lawson on art, where a military team has gone missing after investigating a mysterious island. The government brings in the Turtles to investigate, while at the same time, the Mysterymen start their own investigation. The two sides collide, befriend each other, and then fight fire ghosts, a werewolf, and other ridiculous things. Meanwhile, the Flaming Carrot tries selling lemonade. He isn’t successful.

Across the ’90s, the Ninja Turtles crossed paths a couple times with Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon. Drawn by Michael Dooney, 1993’s Savage Dragon/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has Dragon visit New York City to investigate some animated gargoyles abducting the elderly. While friendly with the Turtles, he has a running gag of never being able to tell them apart, suggesting that they get initials on their belt buckles. Even then, in a later crossover, he refers to Raphael as “Rembrandt.”

Image Comics took in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise in the mid-90s, so they became integrated with the universe more. Turtles showing up in Savage Dragon’s comics – which happened quite a bit – was no longer all that special anymore. Raphael even made a quick appearance fighting a Martian in an alley in Mars Attacks Image.

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The most amusing appearance during this time was Gen 13 #13B, where Grunge goes on a journey that causes him to run into all sorts of indie comic characters like Bone, Madman, Savage Dragon, etc. His brief meeting with the Ninja Turtles has a bit of a meta thing going on where Grunge asking, “What happened to you guys?” is less about how they got in a life-and-death predicament and more about how they lost their overwhelming popularity.

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Otherwise, the Mirage-era Ninja Turtles made a couple other less-notable crossover appearances. In 1991, they appeared in The Last of the Viking Heroes Meet the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Michael Thibodeaux, which again brought time travel into the fray. In 1996, we got Creed/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Trent Kaniuga, where they got tangled up in a plot with a young boy named Creed and a mystical, green crystal. While the Ninja Turtles had nothing to do with it, one of their supporting characters starred in the two-part Gizmo and the Fugitoid comic by Laird and Michael Dooney.

During the early ’90s, the Ninja Turtles also appeared in a more family-friendly comic run under the Archie Comics banner. Naturally, this gave us Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Meet Archie by Ryan Brown and Dean Clarrain. Around that time in the Archie Turtles series, the four are brought to various realities by Cudley the Cowlick, a giant, cosmic, talking cow head. Because comics are weird. He drops them off in Riverdale for twelve hours. Archie and Betty see them and freak out over what they figured to be an alien invasion, yet nobody believes them. The four disguise themselves and even check out a Josie and the Pussycats concert incognito, but reveal their true identities when Veronica gets kidnapped by some criminals intending to get a hefty ransom. It isn’t nearly as good as Archie Meets the Punisher, but it’s fine for what it is.

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In terms of properties with far less staying power, there was also Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Meet the Conservation Corps by Paul Castiglia and Dan Nakrosis. This was actually used to springboard the short-lived comic where an alien crash-lands onto Earth and uses some special tech to turn random animals into mutants for the sake of protecting the Earth from pollution. It was just as hokey as you’d expect, though the villain design wasn’t bad. Oily Bird is a giant, oil-covered duck, the only survivor of an oil tanker spill that killed his family. The mix of oil and toxic waste turned him into an insane monster out to overrun the entire planet with pollution. So, I mean, the comic has that going for it. Looking at covers for the Conservation Corps series, he later became a cyborg. So it has that going for it too.

Also under the Archie banner, the Turtles made a quick guest appearance in Sonic the Hedgehog #10, back when that series was young and intentionally silly. Sonic was busy running through an underground labyrinth and when in a sewer, the four Turtles ran by, admitting out loud that they were basically lost. Not only in the wrong sewer, but in the wrong comic as well.

Nearly twenty years later, Sonic’s evil double (no, the other one) Scourge ended up in prison with Bebop and Rocksteady in Sonic Universe #29, though that’s more of an Easter egg thing than an official crossover.

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Speaking of criminal acts, the ’80s animated series led to Michelangelo showing up in the all-so-memorable Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, the anti-drug cartoon about a teenager who gets into marijuana. After he’s seen stealing money from his little sister, a bunch of cartoon characters come to life to spend a half hour lecturing him that drugs are bad and smoking weed will make you look like a zombie and kill you. Alongside Michelangelo are Alvin and the Chipmunks, Garfield, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, the Muppet Babies, Winnie the Pooh, Slimer, the Smurfs, Alf, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. That’s a of properties that got transformed into lousy CGI movies over the last few years…

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Oh, God. We’re due for a CGI Alf reboot, aren’t we?

Regardless, as someone who was 8 when that cartoon came out, us kids only gave a damn about Michelangelo showing up. Dude didn’t even get to appear on the VHS cover.

It wasn’t Garfield’s only meeting with Michelangelo. The winter 1992 edition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Magazine had a one-page comic written by Garfield creator Jim Davis with Gary Barker and Larry Fentz on art and Laird himself doing the inking. The gag here is that Garfield tries disguising himself as the fifth Ninja Turtle in order to get them to leave him alone with all their pizza. Instead, they choose to beat the holy hell out of him, which is rather messed up, all things considered.

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He’s just a normal cat with the ability to inner-monologue, guys.

In 1997, the Ninja Turtles returned to TV with the abysmal Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation. The live-action show introduced their female member Venus and lasted for a mere six months before cancellation. An episode of Power Rangers in Space called “Shell Shocked” brought the two parties together and while it should have been the best thing ever, it was outright terrible. The evil Astronema decided the best way to defeat the Power Rangers would be to summon the Ninja Turtles, brainwash them, and then make them betray the Rangers. Everyone was insufferable, nothing made any sense, and they only came to their senses by the weakest of all plot devices. It ended with the five Turtles surfing through space and me wanting to die.

The preview of the following episode mentioned Bulk being attacked by a claw and that had me more pumped than the previous 22 minutes.

One bit of strangeness is how the Turtles had a tendency to constantly crossover with Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of the Moo Mesa. Namely the fact that these multiple adventures happened well over a decade after the Moo Mesa cartoon’s cancellation, and even then, it wasn’t exactly the most memorable show to go back to. The mutant cows appeared sporadically through various issues of Mirage’s Tales of the TMNT in a bunch of dimension-hopping storylines I’m not going to even begin to explain.

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Around that time, when the 4Kids animated series did the Flash Forward season, the Turtles were thrown into a Danger Room-type simulation by the villain Viral where they’re stuck having to face the cast of Moo Mesa in a barfight. Viral leaves them to die and returns later, insulted to see the Turtles playing cards with the likes of Moo Montana.

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That 4Kids Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series lasted a good seven seasons. Once Nickelodeon bought the rights to everything Ninja Turtles and it was apparent that the 4Kids series was going to be cancelled, they went out in style with Turtles Forever. The animated movie was about the 2000s cartoon crossing over with the ’80s cartoon in a plot where the badass Utrom Shredder takes over the ’80s Technodrome and tries to use it to wipe out all reality.

There are a couple minor problems in there. The ’80s Turtles are treated a little too much as jokes to the point that all four of them are practically Michelangelo. Due to union issues, the original voice actors couldn’t come back, meaning we were cheated out of James Avery playing Shredder one last time. Still, it was a wonderful love letter to the various takes on the characters, especially in the final act, where they visited the black-and-white world of Turtle Prime, where they met the grim and gritty Mirage Turtles.

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Coincidentally, an episode of the Nickelodeon CGI animated series called “Wormquake” has shown that show’s animated Turtles looking through alternate realities and seeing their ’80s cartoon counterparts, with Michelangelo wondering why they look like dorks. The hour-long episode has them fight a giant worm and in the end, they get rid of it by sending it to one of the alternate realities. That gives us a quick scene of the ’80s incarnations choosing to fight it, all while giving us back the original voice actors. Seriously, hearing Donatello yell, “Turtle Power!” gave me the warm fuzzies.

The Nickelodeon cartoon team and the ’80s cartoon team would finally meet up in the season 4 episode “Trans Dimensional Turtles.” It’s essentially a half-hour remake of Turtles Forever (right down to the use of the Mirage universe in the third act) only using the current show and focusing on a team-up between ’80s Krang and Kraang Subprime. Again, the original voice actors return and it leads to a funny moment where Rob Paulsen’s ’80s Raphael makes fun of the way Rob Paulsen’s ’10s Donatello talks.

That brings us to the current IDW comic series. IDW has a lot of licensed series under its belt and back in 2011, they introduced a soft crossover event called Infestation. The idea was that a zombie virus was spreading around on an inter-dimensional level. That meant it tied together all these different properties without actually having them meet up. The first series included Zombies vs. Robots, Star Trek, Transformers, Ghostbusters, and GI Joe. A year later, they did Infestation 2, which included Transformers, Dungeons and Dragons, GI Joe, 30 Days of Night, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Instead of zombies, the second series focused more on Lovecraftian nightmares. Over the course of two issues, the Turtles investigate some disturbances in the sewer and defeat an otherworldly squid, saving reality.

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IDW used the same soft crossover concept more recently in X-Files: Conspiracy. The crossover involves X-Files characters the Lone Gunmen, whose quest to track down a maguffin leads them to various worlds. They deal with Ghostbusters, Transformers, the Crow, and – you guessed it – the Ninja Turtles. While the Turtle tie-in issue doesn’t feature Mulder and Scully, it does have them fight vampires, so there’s that.

In 2014, the IDW comic would do a four-issue crossover miniseries with Ghostbusters. Written by Erik Burnham and Tom Waltz with art by Dan Schoening, it revolves around Chi-You, the ever-powerful sibling of Kitsune and the Rat King (who is basically an immortal demigod in IDW continuity). The Turtles and April end up in the Ghostbusters’ reality and work alongside Venkman and the rest.

It’s a solid outing and one of the things that really works is how everyone matches up with their counterparts. You have the two brains, the two dorks, the two assholes, the redhead lady assistants, and…Leonardo and Winston. Yet the story makes them feel like kindred spirits in the way they act as the down-to-earth ones who have to put up with their partners’ over-the-top personalities.

Also great is how even in a cross-dimensional team-up, there’s still skepticism. Donatello refuses to believe in ghosts while Egon refuses to believe in aliens. Real glass houses.

This was followed up with a sequel where the ghost of TMNT villain Darius Dun has teamed up with Ghostbusters villains known as the Collectors. The plot has caused different Turtles/Buster pairings to dive through various realities and has led to some neat moments, like Peter using his psychology know-how to help Michelangelo work out his issues with his fall-out with Splinter or how Donatello and Egon discuss their recent experiences of dying and coming back to life. They also run into the ghost of the Turtles’ mother and, naturally, Peter hits on her.

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One world they visit during this is a society run by mutant animals where Harold, Danny, Bill, and Ernie are the Ghostbusturtles. Cute.

Recently, they have been having endless crossovers with the Dark Knight. The first of which is a trip to the DC Universe for Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a six-issue miniseries by James Tynion IV and Freddie E Williams II. It’s fantastic.

They end up stranded in Gotham with the knowledge that the science that allows them to exist doesn’t exactly hold up in the DC dimension. Their mutagen will gradually become inert, eventually turning them back to normal turtles.

After a run-in with Batman, the four talk about what the hell just happened. Donatello does some internet research, Michelangelo figures out the pros and cons of this dark avenger, Raphael considers him to be some psychopath, and Leonardo reflects on the fight and figures him out in his own way.

“I’ve never fought someone like him…Shredder, maybe…but it was different. He was testing us. Avoiding lethal blows…he wanted to figure us out. He was fighting like a detective. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

We ultimately get a team-up of the Foot Clan and the League of Assassins, which makes all the sense in the world, and it gets over-the-top once they use mutagen on the inmates of Arkham Asylum. Snake Joker, Hyena Harley, Baboon Two-Face, Vulture Scarecrow, Elephant Bane, Penguin Penguin, and so on. But all the mutated Batman villains in Gotham are no match for Splinter wielding Harley’s oversized cartoon mallet.

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The same creative team would make two sequels. The second series focuses on Bane taking over New York City in the Turtles’ universe while made even stronger from mutagen. It ends up taking the combined might of Batman, Splinter, and Shredder to take him down.

As of this writing, they’re in the midst of a crossover story amazingly called “Crisis on a Half Shell,” where the villain is Krang wearing the Anti-Monitor.

Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The current story also features a team-up in there between the Mirage Turtles and a classic, smiling, blue-clad Batman. Everything about this is fantastic.

Yet there are even more TMNT/Batman crossovers out there. Matthew K. Manning and Jon Sommariva did a five-issue miniseries called Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures. This time it’s the Turtles from the recent Nickelodeon show meeting up with Batman: The Animated Series.

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In it, Mad Hatter creates portals into the Ninja Turtles’ universe and sends a handful of Arkham villains there to cause trouble. This includes a stretch of time where Joker takes over the Foot Clan and goes around wearing Shredder’s helmet. On the other hand, Shredder is able to overcome Joker gas via pure willpower and hatred towards Splinter.

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The comic even uses the crossover as an in-universe explanation for why Scarecrow changed up his look and became ultra-creepy for Adventures of Batman and Robin.

Inspired by these comic crossovers, an animated movie called Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was released. The story is very much based on the first comic crossover with the mutant Arkham inmates and the team-up of Ra’s al Ghul and Shredder, but the main difference is that they don’t do the alternate universe gimmick. It plays it up like Batman and the Turtles have always existed in the same world but have been completely unaware of each other up to this point.

It’s very much worth watching, especially for a spectacular Batman vs. Shredder fight early on. Shredder even enters the fight with the same slow-motion jump from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie! I love it.

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Despite all these Batman meet-ups, it still blew everyone away when NetherRealm Studios announced that all four Turtles would be playable in Injustice 2 as the final DLC release. Not only do they get to fight with the DC Universe (or a darker version of), but they also face the likes of Hellboy, Sub-Zero, and Raiden. Each Turtle has about a half hour’s worth of dialogue with their opponents and there are tons of cute references in there. My favorite is a subtle Turtles in Time Easter egg where Michelangelo’s skateboard has an apple-shaped sticker that says “BIG” and under it is a sticker saying “3AM.”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Injustice

Their ending has Harley Quinn reward them for their help by giving them a pizza laced with the same chemical used in the game’s “super pills,” which allows street-level characters to go toe-to-toe with Superman. After ingesting this, the Turtles go back to their home dimension and absolutely crush Krang and Shredder with little issue.

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So yeah, that’s quite the rolodex of aquaintances.

Throughout the years, Leo and the rest have met up with everyone from the Mysterymen to Baby Kermit the Frog. With so many incarnations out there, it’s like nothing is off-limits when it comes to teaming up with the Ninja Turtles. It’s weirder to realize the properties they haven’t crossed paths with yet, like Spider-Man or Predator.

I mean, Michelangelo, Gandalf, Milhouse, and Shaquille O’Neal were Lego Master Builders that one time. That feels totally normal and makes perfect sense to me. It’s just the kind of world we live in.

Gavin Jasper writes for Den of Geek and still can’t believe we haven’t had an official Turtles/Daredevil crossover yet. Read more of his articles here and follow him on Twitter @Gavin4L