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Here Are the New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as Well as the African American April O'Neil

All Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles images: Nickelodeon
All Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles images: Nickelodeon

Nick’s new animated take on the heroes in a half-shell, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, made waves last year when it announced that its version of Turtle sidekick April O’Neil would be African American. Today, we have a first look at her and the rest of the team in action.

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The TMNT Facebook page held a big announcement this afternoon to reveal new info and art. Kat Graham will voice the character when the series debuts later this year, alongside Josh Brener, Omar Miller, Brandon Mychal Smith, and Ben Schwartz as Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo—who you can also see with their wacky redesigns above—respectively. As ever, Graham’s April will be one of the first humans the turtles encounter, becoming a firm ally and their guide to the weird world above the New York City sewers.

Illustration for article titled Here Are the New iTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,/i as Well as the African American April ONeil
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Although this marks a first for April in animation, whether or not this is the first ever African American interpretation of the character as part of the wider TMNT mythos has long been a question of debate. Some fans saw the earliest versions of April, as seen in Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original comics for Mirage, as being depicted as darker skinned and potentially African American or of mixed-race heritage, before the character evolved into the red-haired Caucasian iteration that went on to appear in the animated series.

Image: Mirage Comics
Image: Mirage Comics

Eastman and Laird have also had a history of disagreeing about April’s heritage in the original comics—Laird always saw the character as white, and Eastman has said she was originally modeled after his then-girlfriend and eventual wife, who was African American. But even aside from the muddled origins of April in the comics, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ April marks a pretty major first for the Turtles’ animated oeuvre.

And, in case you were curious, today also brought a glimpse of one more non-turtle character from the new series: Splinter.

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Illustration for article titled Here Are the New iTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,/i as Well as the African American April ONeil

[Entertainment Weekly]

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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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DISCUSSION

TheTyrantVirus
TheTyrantVirus

I’m all for that April, hell yeah representation, but those designs look almost as bad as the recent two movies. Well, that’s not fair to these designs, because the Turtles’ design in those movies are so horrendous that mere words cannot convey just how amazingly poor they were. The second one flopped, right? So hopefully we won’t be subjected to any more of those. (I actually kind of enjoyed the first one in spite of the terrible designs, but Out of the Shadows is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.)

I kind of lost interest in the 2012 series after season 3 or so, but I REALLY loved that when it first started. As I type this, I can’t believe it’s been 6 years already, but even then, it kind of feels too soon for a reboot. /end ramble