Leonardo. Michelangelo. Donatello. Raphael. Any kids who grew up in or after the 1980s knows those names as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a team of humanoid mutated turtles with training in ninjutsu. Since they were created in 1984, the turtles have taken the world by storm in the form of comic books, TV shows, movies and toys. The world of the TMNT has grown over the years to entertain generations of kids, but one member stands out. We’re talking about one of the most popular members of the team, the gritty and streetwise warrior who has a bad attitude, sarcastic humor and a pair of sharpened sai: Raphael.
Raphael is a turtle who’s always first to start a fight and argues with his other three brothers constantly, but has a heart of gold and will protect Leonardo, Donatello and Michealangelo with his life. You may know and love Raphael, but if you’ve never seen anything but the TV shows or the movies, you might not know everything about the anti-hero. In 2018, Nickelodeon plans to bring a new show, Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, back to the air, so CBR is here to discuss 15 surprising and dark things you never knew about what is sure to be the show’s star, Raphael.
*Fan art in feature image by Phil G Ramsay
15. SHARPENED SAI
As any fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knows, each turtle has his own signature weapon. Leonardo uses katana, Donatello favors a bo staff, Michaelangelo uses nunchaku and Raphael’s weapon of choice is the sai. The sai is an ancient weapon that was developed in countries like India and Thailand before it made its way to Japan. In Raphael’s hands, it’s a powerful weapon, but he’s made it more deadly.
Raphael’s weapon is technically known as a sharpened sai. That’s because the sai is usually considered a defensive weapon, used to block attacks or jab. The longest end is usually rounded and blunt, but Raphael has sharpened his sai to impale and slice. Yeah, the regular sai wasn’t good enough for him. He had to make it more hardcore.
14. RAPHAEL IS MISSPELLED
All of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were famously named after painters from the Italian Renaissance. When the fast and deadly turtles were created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984, the two men didn’t know any Japanese names to give their creations because they didn’t have the Internet, so they pulled a book of Renaissance painters off their shelf and used those.
Leonardo is named after Leonardo da Vinci, Michealangelo is named after (shocker) Michelangelo, and Donatello is named after Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi. Unfortunately, Raphael was a bit of a mistake. Raphael is named after the famous painter and architect known widely as simply Raphael, but that wasn’t the painter’s original name. His real name was Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, so Raphael’s name should have been Raffaello.
13. HE IS A KILLER
If you only know the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the TV shows and movies, you may think you know Raphael, but you don’t. In the more kid-friendly versions, Raphael and his brothers are wackier and mainly use their weapons to knock people out or destroy robots. Raphael has an attitude but is a gentle soul at heart. In the original comics, things were much different.
Remember that ninja were first and foremost assassins, and that’s what the turtles were in their first issue in 1984. The turtles were trained by their master Splinter to kill Shredder, and they did it in the first issue. Throughout the comic series, Raphael was the most violent of the four, leaving bloody bodies in his wake during every battle. While the other brothers killed out of duty, Raphael loved killing.
In 2003, Mirage published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #12 (Peter Laird, Jim Lawson, Eric Talbot) which had a shocking twist for Raphael: he turned into a dinosaur. Sort of. In the issue, Raphael is attacked by a gang who turn out to be vampires. Normally, he would have gotten fangs and started drinking blood, but because of the mutagen in his body, Raphael didn’t turn into a vampire.
Instead, he turned into a dinosaur-like turtle monster who went out of control with primal fury. Raphael managed to get his rage under control with the help of Leatherhead and Casey Jones to stop the vampires. He also turned himself back into a normal turtle again, much to his relief. Well, as normal as a mutant turtle can be.
11. RAPHAEL BROKE HIS NOSE
In the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, Raphael met his partner in the comics, Casey Jones. The meeting didn’t go smoothly as he had to stop the vigilante from beating some crooks to death. When Raphael stood up for them, Casey Jones used a cricket bat to knock him head-first into a trash can.
The animatronic masks for the Turtles were incredible engineering for the time, but they caused problems for the people inside. While filming this scene, the mask was crushed on impact, breaking the nose of the stuntman inside. The stuntman had to be replaced with another named Kenn Scott. Scott had been hired to play one of the Foot Soldiers, specifically the one who traded nunchuck moves with Michelangelo. The stuntmen suffered to make the movie so good.
10. RAPHAEL WAS DISFIGURED
In 1996, Image published a series that started out with a bang, literally. In the first issue (by Gary Carlson and Frank Fosco), the Turtles faced an army of cyborgs led by the female ninja Pimiko. When the cyborgs escaped, Raphael found and started poking around with one left behind. Before he knew it, the cyborg opened fire right in his face, leaving him badly burned and scarred.
During this dark period of Raphael’s life, he took to wearing one of Casey Jones’ hockey masks to cover his disfigured face like the Phantom of the Opera. Eventually, he whittled that down to an eye patch, a constant reminder of how he failed to protect himself. Fortunately, other comics moved on from the eye patch, and he was back to normal.
9. RAPHAEL WAS SHREDDER
By far, Shredder is the most dangerous and well-known enemy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With his skilled martial arts, razor-sharp blades and ruthless ambition, he’s been the nemesis of the turtles since his creation. That’s why it might surprise you that Raphael once became Shredder.
It all went down in Image’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #13 (Gary Carlson, Frank Fosco). When mobsters attacked a hideout of the Foot clan, Raphael found and put on a suit of armor to pretend to be Shredder. He did his job too well, defeating the mobsters and earning the respect of the remaining Foot soldiers so he could become the new Shredder to lead the clan in New York. Eventually, he stepped down, but his anger and violence made him right at home among the Foot.
8. RAPHAEL’S MISSING EYE
You know how they say it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye? Well, that’s happened to Raphael many times. He always lives on the edge, but he eventually went too far. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, Archie comics took the TMNT into new directions, including into the future.
In #42 (Dean Clairrain, Chris Allan), Raphael and Donatello traveled to the present day to take the Turtles into their future. There, they discovered Future Raphael had lost an eye during a fight against Shredder, Verminator X and Armaggon. In fact, in other future timelines of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Raphael’s left eye is missing. The reasons always vary, but the reality is that Raphael just looks cooler with an eye-patch.
7. INTERGALACTIC PRO WRESTLER
While Raphael is known as a ruthless fighter, he can fight without killing his opponent sometimes. That was proven in 1989’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #7 (Dean Clarrain, Jim Lawson) when the Turtles were transported in an interdimensional cow’s head (just go with it) to an asteroid where two aliens, Stump and Sling, created a popular TV show in the form of Intergalactic Wrestling.
The aliens had kidnapped the turtles to be the latest competitors in the show, and the only way home would be to fight for their freedom. While the other turtles were worried about their new challenge, Raphael put on a black suit and went to town. Of course, the heroes won the match and went back to Earth, courtesy of the floating cow head, but while the other turtles abandoned their wrasslin’ looks, Raph kept his around for a while to really lean into the whole “ninja” thing, and to establish his own visual identity.
6. RAPHAEL’S BROKEN SHELL
In the 2012 TV series by Nickelodeon, the Turtles returned to the airwaves with an all new look and a new attitude. One of the most subtle but important changes came to the design of Raphael. While the shells of the turtles have all remained the same, Raphael’s shell had visible cracks and chips that none of the other turtles had.
While it was never fully explained in the TV show, the comics have shown Raphael has no regard for his well-being. He often leaps into battle first without concern for self-defense or control. He doesn’t care about being hurt, so his shell had taken more of a beating than the other members of the team. That change also makes him easier to recognize among his brothers.
5. RAPHAEL WAS HOMELESS
In 2011, IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 by Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman introduced a new version of the Turtles with a different origin. In this story, the turtles were a genetic experiment by Baxter Stockman to make armored super-soldiers. They all started out together as regular turtles until they mutated into humanoid forms except for Raphael. Raphael was attacked by a hungry cat and taken away.
When he mutated, Raphael was left alone and homeless, wandering the streets of New York and eating from dumpsters. Raphael ended up rescuing a young Casey Jones from his abusive father. When his brothers finally found him and Casey Jones, Raphael had no memory of them or his identity, but Splinter trained and brought him back into the family.
4. RAPHAEL’S VOICE HATED THE MOVIE
Rob Paulsen has been voicing cartoon characters for decades, but one of his most popular gigs has been for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In 1987, Poulson was the voice of Raphael for the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series that continued until 1995. In 2012, Nickelodeon’s reboot of the series brought Paulsen back to the TMNT, although this time he voiced Donatello instead of Raphael.
As the voice of two turtles, he has a lot to say about the franchise, and he has weighed in on the new movies. He doesn’t like them. In 2014, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was made into a new and more mature movie. When asked about the PG-13 movie, Paulsen admitted he thought it was too violent and there was too much cursing, especially for a film marketed to kids. Some parents agreed with him.
3. RAPHAEL’S ACTOR WAS CLAUSTROPHOBIC
Josh Pais was the voice and body of the tough-talking Raphael in the 1990 movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He did a great job, adding a New York accent and an edgy attitude, except for a slight problem: he was claustrophobic.
Performing as the turtle, Pais had to wear a large animatronic helmet that completely covered his head with only a few holes for the eyes and an opening in the mouth when it was open. Pais couldn’t keep his mask on his head the whole time while he was on the set. He had to keep the mask off right up until his performance, and when he was done, the crew had to rush to get it off of him before he had a panic attack.
2. RAPHAEL PUNCHED HITLER
In 1989’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #64, the Turtles discovered Adolf Hitler’s brain was saved and used to power a time machine called the timeslip generator. Using the time machine, Hitler created a robot body to travel into the past to meet his younger self to change history for his own benefit.
When the Turtles went back in time to World War II, they found the Hitler of the time and his disembodied brain working together with Nazi soldiers. A fight broke out and the brain was destroyed. Raphael couldn’t kill Hitler and change history, so he punched the Fuhrer in the face “for the millions” killed. If you think they let him off easy, they didn’t. The turtles talked Hitler into thinking he was in hell and shooting himself.
1. RAPHAEL SWITCHED TEAMS
Raphael has always been part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Or has he? Well, not always. His role in the team has always been a problem, with Raphael clashing with his brothers and fighting with Leonardo to be the leader. Knowing that, it might not be surprising that he once worked on another team.
In 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #19 (Ryan Brown, Stephen Murphy), a group of humanoid animals came together to team up and form the Mighty Mutanimals. The Mutanimals were a spin-off of the Turtles that included Leatherhead, Mondo Gecko and Raphael. He was one of the founding members, although he didn’t stay, letting the Mutanimals go on to their own adventures in their own short-lived comic book and later appearances in other Turtle media.
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