In the world of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Foot Clan is the deadliest group of ninja assassins in the world. Originally based in Japan, the Foot spread around the world to bring death and chaos wherever it went. Hidden in the shadows, the Foot has been led by Shredder, the ruthless and brutal warlord who has dedicated his life to wiping out the Turtles. As ninja, the Foot are always shrouded in secrecy, especially if you haven’t dug deep into their significant history. Casual fans who haven’t seen all the movies, read all the comics and seen all the animated shows won’t get the whole story of why these dark and mysterious warriors are such a force to be reckoned with. That’s why CBR is going to dig deep for you, into the Foot and their lore.
We’ll be talking about the Foot as an organization and individuals, digging into how the clan came to be, why they’re so deadly, their hidden connections to the Turtles, and what they do besides kill people. We’ll also get into how the Foot have evolved from the original comics, and changed over the decades. Unless you’re a die-hard fan, get ready to learn 16 secrets you never knew about the Foot.
*The Foot Clan design in the feature image by jstolarski.
16. THE FOOT ARE A PARODY OF THE HAND
The Foot has become one of the deadliest groups of warriors in comics, but they didn’t start out that way. When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were created in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, they were intended as a straight parody of the popular Frank Miller run of Daredevil.
The TMNT had a lot of references to Daredevil, like their mutation having been caused by a toxic waste drum spilled from a car accident involving a blind boy. A ninja clan known as the Hand was one of Daredevil’s deadliest enemies at the time, so it only made sense to make a ninja clan called the Foot. Over time, the Foot became so popular that the Hand fell by the wayside, and the ruthless enemies of the Turtles lived on.
15. THE TMNT CREATED THE FOOT
The Foot are the mortal enemies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the shell-shocked heroes have tried many things to shut them down. The turtles have also traveled through time a lot, and one of those trips accidentally created their archenemies. In 1992’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #47 by Michael Dooney, the trip took them to Japan in 1373 where they tried to fight another enemy, Savanti Romero.
While there, Raphael met two ronin named Sato and Oshi. He trained them in the art of ninjitsu and left, not knowing that the two men decided to found their own clan of ninja. They decided that every journey begins with a single step, so they named themselves the Foot. Over the centuries, the Foot grew to rise against the Turtles.
14. THE LEFT FOOT
What’s the symbol of the Foot Clan? Well, the obvious answer is a footprint. That hasn’t always been the case as the 2003 cartoon used a symbol of a trident and the first movie in 1990 used a Japanese symbol, but most other versions have used a footprint as the ninja clan’s symbol. While you might have seen it many times, you might have noticed something that all TMNT logo designers have had to deal with: which foot should be the logo?
Is it the left foot or the right foot to use? In most versions, like the 1987 cartoon, the Foot clan uses the left foot as its logo. There has been an occasional right foot thrown in over the years, but the left foot is traditional. It’s a small thing that can make a big difference.
13. WHY THE FOOT WERE ROBOTS
When they first appeared in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, the Foot was a deadly group of human warriors trained in ninjutsu. Yet when the TV show adaptation came out in 1987, the Foot became a collection of artificially intelligent robots. The robots were trained in different weapons but tended to fall apart easily under the weapons of the Turtles.
The reason for the big change came down to the political mood of the time when violence in children’s television came under attack. A group of amphibious ninja warriors armed with swords and knives would have had to use their weapons, and hacking and slashing human ninjas would probably have gotten the show pulled off the air. By making the Foot into robots, the Turtles could smash their way through thousands of the Foot without a drop of blood.
12. SHREDDER CREATED THE FOOT
In every version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Foot is shown as being led by the evil Shredder, the nemesis of the heroic amphibians. However, the origin of the Foot has changed. In the original series, Shredder took over as the leader of the Foot Clan. Yet in one version, Shredder started the Foot.
In the 2003 series, Shredder was an alien warlord from the same species as Kraang, who lived hundreds of years waging war across the universe until he was captured. Taken to stand trial, Shredder escaped to Earth and formed the Foot 700 years earlier in 11th Century Japan. Using alien technology, Shredder led the Foot to power and later took on the form of a businessman who came into conflict with the Turtles. He was a very different version of Shredder, but also much more powerful.
11. THE FOOT WERE INSPIRED BY OLIVER TWIST
In the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in 1990, the Foot clan were very different from the original comics and TV shows. Instead of a highly trained organization of Japanese warriors, the Foot were more of a street gang of runaway kids who were taken in, given candy, cigarettes and video games, and trained in the ninja arts by Shredder. Instead of a ruthless commander, Shredder served as more of a surrogate father to the Foot.
This version of the Foot was actually inspired by classic literature, specifically Oliver Twist. In the 1837 novel, the evil Fagin took in stray children and trained them as pickpockets and thieves to steal for him. The relationship between Shredder and the Foot is a modern version of the story, which you wouldn’t expect from a comic book movie.
10. DONATELLO WAS A FOOT CLAN MEMBER
What do Donatello and the Foot have to do with each other? Quite a lot in the movies. In the 1990 movie, as in the comics and TV show, Donatello is a smart and tough character who fights evil alongside his brothers. In the first movie, Corey Feldman voiced Donatello and Adam Carl voiced him in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Oooze. However, Leif Tilden performed as the body of both Donatellos.
Tilden is an actor and puppeteer who performed in different suits for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. You actually saw Tilden in another role as the Foot clan member who sent April a message (in the form of a slap in the face) in the subway scene of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
9. THE TMNT LED THE FOOT
The Foot and the Turtles have always been on opposite sides, but that changed recently. In 2015’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #49 (Bobby Curnow, Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, Cory Smith), the battle between Shredder and Splinter came to a conclusion when they and their subordinates fought a “gauntlet.” In the battle, Splinter won and became the new leader of the Foot Clan.
The turtles went along with him (except for Michaelangelo) and under his guidance, Splinter tried to make the Foot clan into a better organization. He tried to teach them honor, but it wasn’t easy. A Foot clan assassin named Jennika objected and tried to overthrow Splinter in a coup. Instead of making the Foot better, Splinter was the one who changed, ordering an execution to maintain his power. The Foot could never really be reformed.
8. THE FOOT ARE MORE THAN KILLERS
When you think of the Foot Clan, you probably think of men (and occasionally women) running around New York, killing people. After all, the ninja are traditionally assassins. While that’s true, the Foot are more than just a group of killers. In fact, they’re much worse.
For centuries, the Foot had been an elite group of mercenaries and killers for hire. Yet when Shredder took over the New York branch of the Foot, he expanded their reach. He turned them into a criminal enterprise similar to the Mafia or Yakuza. The Foot began dabbling in smuggling drugs and weapons, counterfeiting money, stealing, and taking control of New York City. Along the way, of course, they still manage to make time to kill people and turtles.
7. THE FOOT MADE PEACE WITH THE TURTLES
The Foot might seem like they could never coexist with the Turtles, but that actually happened in the original comics. In every version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shredder has been the nemesis of the Turtles, but that only came about in the 1987 TV series. In the very first issues of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, the Turtles defeated Shredder and he killed himself with a grenade.
After his death, the Foot Clan in the United States collapsed into civil war. The elite warriors who guarded Shredder began fighting the lowly Foot soldiers until Karai had to come from Japan to try to stop the war. She was able to bring in the Turtles to help with the civil war in exchange for a peace treaty. The Foot vowed not to try to avenge Shredder’s death, and the Turtles agreed to leave the Foot alone.
6. THE FOOT’S NAME
Why would a ninja clan call themselves the Foot? That’s a complicated question with many answers. In fact, the origin of the Foot’s name has changed based on different medium and continuity. For example, in the original comic’s continuity, two ninja decided to call themselves the Foot because every journey begins with a single step.
In the 1987 animated series, the Turtles went back in time to stop a powerful dragon. In the process, the clan was founded by Splinter’s ancestor Hamato Koji, who tamed the dragon and stood in its footprint when he founded it; thus, the Foot was named after the footprint he stood in. In the IDW continuity, the Foot was founded by a ronin whose leg was cut off but remade by a sorcerer, leading him to name the clan after the bloody print of his mystically healed foot.
5. THE FOOT SYMBOL MEANT DEMON
The symbol of the Foot Clan has been pretty consistent with all its variations as some sort of foot. One version of the Foot used a dragon footprint or trident symbol. It’s the kind of symbol that works in the comic and cartoons, which had more of a comedy feel, but not for the movies.
In the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, the idea was to give the franchise a more realistic tone. That’s why the Foot were human ninjas instead of robots and their symbol was very different, trying to keep the clan from running around with a cartoon foot on their chests and foreheads. Throughout the movie, you’ll see their bandanas had a Japanese kanji called “oni,” which translates to “ogre,” “troll” or “demon.” It made them much scarier.
4. THE WIDE VARIETY OF FOOT SOLDIERS
When most fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles think of the Foot Clan, they think of armies of identical human warriors charging at the shell-heads or an army of identical robot warriors, but they have one thing in common, which is that they aren’t very good at beating the Turtles. Yet the Foot have branched out to make more dangerous and powerful clan members.
In 2003, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series introduced new classes of Foot ninja like four Elite Foot Ninja who are both personal guards for Shredder and commanders on missions. There are also Foot Clan Technicians, who were turned into cyborgs, and the Foot Tech Ninja, who were given the power to turn invisible with enhanced speed and strength. The most dangerous Foot ninja are the Foot Mystics, who use mystical powers based on the elements of wind, earth, water, fire and metal.
3. HOW TO PLAY AS THE FOOT
In most video games based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Foot are basically cannon fodder, legions of soldiers thrown at the player to beat up. It took decades before game developers decided that players might want to get a hold of a Foot soldier instead. When they finally wised up, two fighting games — TMNT: Mutant Melee and TMNT: Smash Up — became the first to make the Foot Ninja into playable characters.
The first game was 2005’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Melee, a fighting game that included all four of the Turtles, Splinter, April O’Neil, Casey Jones, Shredder and Hun, but the big break was the variety of Foot ninja you could choose from. In 2009, the fighting game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up was another fighting game that copied Super Smash Bros and included a Foot Ninja as a choice of fighter.
2. KARAI RULES THE FOOT
The Foot have traditionally been loyal to Shredder, but others have taken control of the Foot in his place. In the original comic, Shredder was killed and the Foot fell into chaos, so Karai was a high-ranking Foot member who traveled from Japan to restore order to the organization and took power until Shredder returned. She was even intended to be the identity of Lady Shredder, a mysterious woman trying to seize the Foot.
In some later versions of the character, Karai was turned into a relative of Shredder as his daughter or biological granddaughter. She has at times worked under Shredder and other times worked against Shredder for control of the Foot. Whether she’s an ally of Shredder or a rival, she always fights under her own rules and with lethal skill.
1. SPLINTER WAS A FOOT NINJA
As the honorable master, trainer and father figure of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Shredder seems like he would be a lifelong enemy of the Foot Clan. In most cases that’s true, but not when it came time to make the first animated series. In the original comics, Hamato Yoshi was a member of the Foot ninja clan who owned a pet rat. Yoshi became entangled in a love triangle that caused him to commit murder that left him dishonored and forced to exile himself to New York with his pet.
When Yoshi was murdered in vengeance, the rat became the mutant sensei of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. However, in the 1987 cartoon series, they thought the story was a little too complicated so Hamato Yoshi actually turned into the mutant rat. That meant Splinter was originally a member of the Foot.
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