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The Coolest Side Characters From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' 1987 Cartoon

The "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" franchise has been swinging hard in recent years with comics, toys, movies, and television shows, but a sizeable portion of their audience first discovered these turtle boys through animation. Though several different iterations of these reptiles have appeared on the small screen at this point, it's hard to argue against the enormous impact of the original 1987 cartoon. The iconic look of the show and several character models are still often used for new art and action figures, and even provided a basis for 2022's "TMNT: Shredder's Revenge" video game. Now as the show celebrates its 35th anniversary, it's still easy to look back and see why so many of our much younger selves fell in love with the program and still want to revisit this version of the heroes in a half shell.

Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo, as well as the other mainstays of the franchise are all great, but this show ran for 10 seasons and it's easy to forget the smaller players. We're here to talk about some of those characters who may have slipped under the radar or gotten lost in the fog of time. Heroes and villains alike, these are the side characters who are more awesome than we might remember and deserve recognition.

Mondo Gecko

One of the guys everyone thought was the coolest as soon as they heard his name, Mondo Gecko is Michelangelo's laid-back lizard friend. With ripped shorts, slick kicks, kneepads shaped like skulls, and a backward hat, there's no questioning his style. This dude is always getting around on a souped-up skateboard, thrashing wherever he goes. He's one gnarly mutant, and Gecko is decent in a fight as well. He may not have ninja skills like so many others in the cartoon, but he does have an aggressive tongue, a quick tail, and a laser gun.

This is a character who's retconned into the turtles' past through Michelangelo's recurring nightmares. Gecko shows up in the mutagen when the brothers are just babies, but instead of being adopted and trained by Splinter, he falls into the hands of Mr. X. This leads to a life of crime and puts Gecko in opposition with the heroes, but it quickly becomes obvious that the villain thing doesn't suit him when he risks his own life to save Michelangelo. By the end, Mikey's new lizard buddy is living in the same sewers as the turtle boys. Like a good neighbor, he even offers himself as bait in the episode "Dirk Savage: Mutant Hunter!" Now that's a cool friend.


In a show filled with people who practice ninjutsu, sometimes it's a good idea to introduce other fighting styles to pit the heroes against. So, why not a mutant hamster who's a sumo wrestler? His size and how he uses it are certainly threatening, but really, it's those cool-looking tattoos that help this character stand out. In fact, the back of the box for his action figure says that Tattoo can bring his ink to life to confuse his enemies — an ability that is sadly not used in the cartoon.

Tattoo isn't given much personality in the show, and the only time we see him is at the beginning of "Planet of the Turtleoids," but his brief appearance sparked a lot of interest in the wrestler. He's one of the many new mutant soldiers Krang and Shredder experiment on for a plan they end up scrapping anyway. Tattoo might be working for The Foot in this episode, but his criminal motivation ultimately gives way to his true goal — wanting to return home. When the turtles find him, Tattoo is breaking back into the pet store he came from. Though they end up fighting against each other, in both the toyline and comics, Tattoo is usually a good guy and given more depth than a grunting homesick animal.


This is a character that went under the radar for a lot of viewers who didn't catch the later seasons of the 1987 show. Krakus shows up in Season 8's "Enter: Krakus," and he has to be a big deal if the episode is named after him, right? This futuristic lawman is sent by the Metroplex Police Department to deal with Titanus and his band of mutants, and at first, he believes the turtles are working for the evil villain. It isn't long after their fight that Krakus recognizes April O'Neil as the famous woman who saves his father in the future, and that's all that's needed to put him on the right side.

Krakus comes back to the past prepared, suited up in futuristic armor and weapons with some extra hidden tech. Unfortunately, a fight with the bad mutants costs him all of this gear, rendering him a normal human fighting superpowered foes. The time-traveler aspect makes him exciting by itself, but Krakus wins major points when he willingly mutates himself into a monster just to save April. This is a major decision, since he believes it will be a permanent change and mutants are outlawed in his time. Things work out, of course, but for a bit there, Krakus shows how hardcore he is when it comes to making sure the job gets done.

Mona Lisa

There's love in the air — or, at least, on the high seas — when Raphael meets a cute girl and more in the episode "Raphael Meets His Match." She's not your average lady, however, firstly because she's a mutant salamander, and also because she's a saboteur on a mission. Mona Lisa, named after a work of art instead of one of the master painters, was an interesting addition to the show at the time, but the original creators of "TMNT" weren't quite on board with her yet. Initially, she would have been a turtle, but a mutated lizard would have to do instead.

Her background as a college student studying physics makes it seem like she'd be more interested in Donatello rather than Raphael (which is what happens in the later comics), but a chance meeting out in the ocean sends sparks flying. The infatuation doesn't last, however, as Mona Lisa only appears in one episode. Due to some confusion, Raphael mistakes his new flame for a criminal, but in truth, she's actually trying to save a bunch of rich people on the yacht from a pirate captain named Phineas Filch and his giant sea anemones. Thankfully, Mona is slick, witty, and can take care of herself. Her long tail and strong legs mean she's packing some power in her kicks and isn't afraid to brawl with henchman or destroy a nuclear submarine if the situation calls for it.


Mess with the bull and you get the horns — that's the old proverb, and thanks to Bebop and Rocksteady, the Ninja Turtles have learned all about it plenty of times. Shredder asks for a lion and gorilla to turn into soldiers in "Planet of the Turtleoids," but due to the bumbling of his two henchmen, he receives a bull and mole instead. Luckily, the first makes for an excellent villain. Groundchuck's creation may have been an accident, but this is one effective slab of beef. Not only does he come equipped with horns and a mean charge attack, but thanks to some upgrades from Herman the Horrible, he's a hooved arsenal of weapons and quite the shot with a slew of different firearms.

For a mutant created on Earth, Groundchuck spends most of his handful of episodes terrorizing the stars. In "Escape from the Planet of the Turtleoids" he and Dirtbag team up with a space pirate named Captain Dread to steal the gold machine from Shell-Ri-La in what is supposed to be an easy job. Groundchuck has a great look — nose piercings were very in style during the early '90s, let's remember – but it feels like this Texan-themed cyborg antagonist could have done more, and with fewer cow puns.

Lotus Blossom

This show isn't favorable to long-term love interests for the main characters, but at least Leonardo's squeeze gets two appearances. As with many of these stories, however, Lotus Blossom starts off fighting against the turtles, but not before making fools of Shredder, Bebop, and Rocksteady. Krang's idea to replace his current partner with this hired ninja assassin looks promising at first; according to Splinter, as early as age 10, Lotus could best all of her martial arts instructors. She's an incredibly proficient warrior and not a shabby detective, either, as she's able to track the turtles to their lair and kidnap their sensei. Lotus is also skilled in the arts of deception, utilizing a trick sword to beat Leonardo in their duel and fooling the heroes with a pizzaboy disguise. She's incredibly effective and professional, refusing to turn on Krang until he decides not to pay her the gold he promised.

Lotus says there isn't enough gold in doing good and asks Leonardo to team up with her so they can be a powerful ninja duo. Predictably, that doesn't work out and she moves on until "Farewell, Lotus Blossom." This second adventure involves a stolen urn and Shredder tricking her into attacking the turtles again. Thankfully, this time she listens to Splinter and joins the green team in stopping a ghost named Chakahachi from turning New York into his ideal version of Japan.


"TMNT" is a superhero show, so it makes sense that the writers would make a character who's a mix of several classic superhero characters. His powers are based on several different insects, making him akin to Spider-Man; his other form activates when he's angry, just like the Hulk — April even refers to him as "The Incredible Hunk — and his weaknesses are bug spray and Leestanite, an obvious stand-in for kryptonite named after Stan Lee. Like other legendary comic mainstays, his real name, Brick Bradly, is alliterative. One other deeper level of homage paid here was behind the scenes — Bugman's voice actor, Dan Gilvezan, previously played a much more famous wall-crawler in "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends."

Bugman isn't original, but he is entertaining. Through his cheesy lines and flirting with April, he fits right in, but his power set is interesting, too. Not only can Brick fly and use ant strength, but he can also eat like a giant termite. On top of those abilities, Bugman can telepathically communicate with insects and give them commands, like in the episode "Michelangelo Meets Bugman Again," where he saves the city from genetically altered termites. Brick also goes through some issues with a villain who makes a comic about him, and we learn that this is one superhero who isn't afraid to get litigious. In the end, he retreats to a monastery and acquires a new secret identity.

The Rat King

Unlike many of the turtles' other major enemies, Rat King isn't a ninja or mutant, but he does spend all of his time with his favorite animals. His loyal subjects make quite the army and help him with everything from petty robbery to the madman's long-term goal of domination, overthrowing humans, and establishing a "ratocracy," as he calls it. Though Rat King possesses some fighting skills, a laser crossbow, and soda pop bombs, his ability to control the city's rat population is what makes him dangerous. At first, he accomplishes this by using a flute and jaunty little tunes, but later on, it becomes a mental power he can use at any time. What makes that ability extra threatening is that in the beginning, it also works on Splinter.

This maniac majesty considers himself royalty among rats, even though he looks human. In later seasons he gets a more threatening appearance with red eyes. Like our heroes, he lives in the sewers with his subjects, but Rat King makes several appearances throughout the show to cause trouble and is always a welcome sight in Shredder's absence. There are times when he sides with the turtles, especially if it aligns with his goals. He even goes as far as to save April O'Neil in one instance.


This guy is an alien ant, but he's not living the calm farm life. His occupation — executioner, and Antrax seems to enjoy his work. This denizen of Dimension X has worked for Krang in the past, and the turtles regard Antrax as if they're familiar with him, but "Night of the Rogues" is his only appearance in the series. It's a shame the showrunners never used him again, because Antrax seems like an intelligent foe who understands the value of riches, choosing to run when it's obvious Shredder can't pay them anymore. He also hates fine art and destroys several statues at the stock exchange to lure the turtles into a confrontation at one point.

Antrax's best feature, however, is his appearance. The dark gray skin with red accents and brown secondary colors helps this character stand out, as does his purple modified executioner's hood. Though Leonardo takes it away from him quickly, Antrax's ax is pretty sick as well, and works perfectly with his four arms. He also looks to be developing a kinship with Scumbug since they are both insects and tired of watching their brethren killed off. It's a shame they never come back as a team to bug the turtles.


Bebop and Rocksteady are idiots, so it's a bit concerning that someone would let them have pets. It's not at all surprising that the mutant they'd make might be even dumber, or more gullible, than they are. Slash begins as Bebop's pet turtle living in the Technodrome and he gets mutated when the duo attempts to make a mutant to do chores for them. The problem is that Slash — having been changed by supercharged-mutagen — is stronger than they are and armed with two of Shredder's swords. He's also upset about his binky — a plastic palm tree that he's obsessed with.

Slash causes quite the problem for our heroes, not only because he can take all four of them on in a fight, but his antics also give our boys a bad name. Most people who fight Slash don't beat him as much as they find a way to get rid of him, and this usually involves launching him into space. Everybody tricks him, but in the episode "Donatello Trashes Slash," the fifth mutant turtle is given a temporary intelligence boost by a strange race of aliens. This is when we find out Slash is actually British (or maybe that's a side effect of sudden brilliance?) and is plotting to turn everyone on Earth into turtles to create his ideal utopia.


The biggest alligator ever born in Florida is one mean reptile before he swims through some errant mutagen that changes his life forever. Since the last humans he's near before his transformation are a couple of Louisiana trackers, his appearance and thick accent make a lot more sense. He's a skilled survivalist and uses the terrain to his advantage, as shown by his tricking the good guys into a pool of quicksand during his first appearance. With his bullwhip, knives, bear traps, a couple of crayfish, and the laser weapons he uses for devastating ranged combat, Leatherhead is one dangerous foe. Even without his arsenal, Leatherhead still has his claws, teeth, and a tail to bash some skulls in, which is good for him, as this gator doesn't seem to get along with anyone.

It isn't just the turtles he hates; he's often battling the Punk Frogs, but Leatherhead is quick to tussle with other villains as well. Though he teams up with Rat King in "Splinter Vanishes," they first spend an episode fighting against each other with the heroes stuck in the middle. The other thing that makes Leatherhead stand out is his voice. Many may recognize Jim Cummings from other shows like "Darkwing Duck" and "Savage Dragon," and his talents are put to great use here.

Miyamoto Usagi

What's better than a ninja? A samurai — especially a samurai who's equal parts cute and deadly. The turtles finally meet their match against this extra-dimensional rabbit bodyguard in Usagi Yojimbo ... except that isn't actually his name — it's the title of his comic series. The "TMNT" creators got mixed up, leading to years of confusion for fans. This doesn't stop him from becoming one of the most popular characters in the show and toyline, even though he merely guest stars from his own ongoing comic by Stan Sakai.

Miyamoto Usagi is an incredible swordsman and a determined individual when he gives his word. The samurai's sense of honor is commendable, but it also causes him many problems, as seen in the episode "Usagi Come Home," when Shredder tricks him into working against the turtles by cheating in their duel. Fortunately, Usagi is a fan of pizza — which stops him from attacking the turtles further — and he has a softer side, demonstrated by how he's instantly smitten with Irma. He has a great look with his Edo-period clothing and ears pulled up like a samurai bun, and it's awesome to watch him tear through robotic Foot soldiers. This ronin warrior returns to his own dimension of animal warriors, but the popularity of the character and his use in the 1987 cartoon meant that we'd see him in later versions of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" as well.