The seeds of the TMNT franchise were planted in 1983, thanks to a random illustration that Kevin Eastman sketched while he was hanging out at Peter Laird’s place. At the time, they were working on a different comic; however, the ridiculousness of Eastman’s doodle — a turtle wearing a bandana and standing on two legs, with a pair of nunchucks strapped to his arms — prompted the two to hilariously outdo each other with one drawing after another. That is, until they realized that there might be potential in this goofy concept. In other words, Michelangelo (formerly misspelled as “Michaelangelo” in the cartoons and assorted merchandise) became the prototype Turtle.
Michelangelo is often portrayed across various media adaptations as the least serious among the Turtles, the comic relief that balances out Leonardo’s stoicism, Raphael’s ill temper, and Donatello’s awkward nerdiness. In most iterations, he’s also the least skilled fighter, despite his tremendous unrealized potential. Perhaps that’s why Eastman and Laird thought it would be appropriate for him to be the lone surviving Turtle, in a dystopian future story that they’d been planning since 1978.
2020’s “TMNT: The Last Ronin” features a much older Michelangelo, on a mission to avenge his brothers after the Shredder’s descendants killed them. Armed with his brothers’ weapons, this Michelangelo is violent, fearless, and determined to take out the Foot clan. There’s something very unsettling about seeing the class clown in a different, brutal light.