Volume 3

Volume 3, 1996 - 1999

Kicking some shell, Erik Larsen style

For an interview I've conducted with Gary Carlson, writer of this volume, on October 19th of 2005 click here.

Since June of 1996, Erik Larsen of Image Comics has been continuing what Mirage Studios began in a monthly (well, more like tri-monthly these days. Still, they’re trying) comic series, taking up the editorial and publishing reins. Picking up some six months after the color Volume 2 run of the Mirage series, this third TMNT volume continues the tradition Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird began with not only a return to black and white, but a return to the dark, gritty, violent look that originally made the TMNT as popular as they were in the mid-to-late eighties.

The Image series does much more than simply continue the comic adventures of the TMNT. Massive changes have occurred in as early as its first 5-issue story arc.


 The blasting of Donatello


The scarring of Raphael



Donatello confronts his symbiote's former host


The Shredder reborn - Raphael



Donatello, ready for action


Raphael guns down Puzorelli's hitmen

  • Raphael has had half of his face blown off by a mercenary cyborg’s cannon in #1. The left side of his face looks a little like Two-Face’s scarred side, though it doesn’t appear to be discolored. He now wears an eyepatch and occasionally dons Casey Jones’ old hockey mask (while Casey himself seems to have adopted the American flag-esque mask he acquired from the 4-issue Body Count miniseries).
  • In #1, Donatello was repeatedly shot when a band of cyborgs invaded their home in the sewers. Awakening on a helicopter leaving New York, he escaped his captors only to plummet thousands of feet to land in an alley. His shell broken and his life ebbing away, the corpse of the cyborg whose head he had blown off with his own cannon on his way down moved from its deceased host body to take over Donatello’s dying body in #4. Healing and restoring him (save for his shell—Don had to leave it) Donatello is resurrected as a cyborg. His metallic arm now possessing morphing abilities, (ala the T-1000 of Terminator 2), he can change it into a massive cannon or pretty much anything he wants.
  • After issue #5, in which Warlord Komodo had his servants inject him with a synthetic mutagen distilled from his own blood and becoming infected with the rabies virus from coming into contact with bats he encountered in a cave, Splinter has become a humanoid bat with limited sentience (he doesn’t recognize the Turtles; can’t speak straight; and has violent tendencies). After #9, however, it seems that at least Splinter’s sanity may return, as Leonardo injected him with a rabies antidote that was theoretically supposed to revert him to his previous state before he flew off. The Turtles tracked him to Chicago in #10 when they heard reports of a "vampire killer," though it appears Splinter’s escape did not take him there (a Vanguard supervillain named DeathWatch was responsible).
  • In #11, Donatello’s memory is apparently completely overrun by his on-line computer after an encounter with DeathWatch. A soulless droid, it remains to be seen if or how Donatello will resurface. In #12, the Turtles begin a search for DeathWatch, possibly in the hopes that they could restore Donatello by reintegrating the brain patterns still stored in DeathWatch into Donatello’s now-inactive brain. In #13, Donatello and company confront DeathWatch again, but once more the villain escaped, leaving Don in even worse shape. In #14, the soulless Don’s symbiote’s conscious merged with Lurch, an automaton shapeshifter assistant of Vanguard, sprouted wings and a jetpack, then flew off. Don himself, however, remained braindead, and Vanguard took him to keep on life-support. In #15, Donatello, sans the CPU that deserted him, returns to normal with a slightly altered cyborg suit.
  • Raphael has become the Shredder, effective beyond #13 as part of his vow to consolidate the Foot Clan (fitting, since a time traveling story in Volume 1 revealed that Raphael was partially responsible for their formation). Currently he has been forced to face his bat-mutated master, Splinter, in #14. His injuries from the battle required members of the Foot to pool their efforts to heal him in #15. The other Turtles, though aware of a return of Shredder, are unaware that Raphael has assumed the mantle of Shredder.
  • Raphael almost killed Splinter. In a scene on the last page of #16, Raphael, while in the Astral Plane with his brothers to try and save Splinter, stops the rabid/bat-mutated Splinter from attacking Donatello by stabbing him in the back with his sai. Splinter drops, Raphael looks down on him, and Splinter returns to his rat form and sanity before apparently dying in a sobbing Raphael’s arms. "If you die here, you’re really dead, so be careful!" - Leonardo to his brothers while in the Astral Plane in #16. Nevertheless, Splinter lives, and is back in his old rat form.
  • Leonardo gas apparently had his hand bitten off by King Komodo, the half-brother of Warlord Komodo last seen getting blasted by Don in #5, in #18. There is enough of a stump under the cast that his hand could still be there (he only claimed that he couldn't feel his hand), but #19 doesn't shed any light on the situation.

"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were handed over to us because Kevin and Pete didn’t want to produce the book anymore. If they wanted to keep everything as it was they shouldn’t have handed the reins over to me. Yes, we could do stories that forever maintained the status quo as established at Mirage but that doesn’t interest me. The team and their supporting characters will be going through (and have gone through) some major changes. All of us have to face change in our lives and that’s what makes life interesting. The Turtles are going to change. Live with it."
—Erik Larsen, TMNT Vol. 3, #5 lettercol

Well said, Erik. Kevin? Peter?

"Erik, Gary, Frank, and Andrew with one broad stroke of glorious black and white, have stripped away the layers, taken the Turtles back to the basics, then reinvented them. With my highest praise and regards: 'Guys... you brought back the raw, edgy, kick-ass, heart and soul back where it belongs! Thanks!'"
—Kevin Eastman, TMNT Vol. 3 TPB

"Working with Gary Carlson from the 'approvals' end of things, here at Mirage Studios, I've had the pleasure of watching the book develop from a slightly tentative start to the exciting, innovative comic it is today. This new iteration of the TMNT has heart, soul... and balls."
—Peter Laird, TMNT Vol. 3 TPB


After attending a comic book convention at the Seattle Center on November 9th, 1997, I had the opportunity to speak with TMNT editor, publisher, and cover inker Erik Larsen (and get my Savage Dragon and TMNT comics signed, too). I inquired about two key topics in the Image TMNT series...


When I asked Erik if Oroku Saki (Shredder) was truly returning in #13, his immediate response was "Sort of." Feeling relatively sure now that the Shredder to be appearing in #13 will not be Oroku Saki, but somebody else, I asked Erik if the new Shredder is going to be someone we already know. He gave a meaningful "yes." Thinking about the possibility of the new Shredder being either Pimiko or Karai, I asked him the gender of this new Shredder. After some convincing, I finally got a "male" out of him. When I asked Erik if the new Shredder is related by blood to Oroku Saki, he simply wouldn’t say. Unless Erik was only playing along with my further questions, it seemed relatively certain that Shredder was not Oroku Saki but someone else, someone male. Could the new Shredder be one of the three worm-clones of Oroku Saki seen in Volume 1, #20 and 21? At any rate, the mystery has come to an abrupt and perhaps disappointing end with the revelation that this "return of Shredder" was only Raphael putting on the armor of Oroku Saki and masquerading as Shredder in TMNT Volume 3, #13. It is doubtful this will be for any extended period of time, but with Raphael actually assuming control of the New York Foot in #14, he could use his Shredder persona whenever he’s not around his brothers, i.e. as an alter ego (basically, Clark Kent around Leo, Mike, and Don, then Superman when he feels like it and they’re not around). His brothers now know, having confronted him, but only laughed about it in #16. See the Shredder Unmasked section here.


I asked about Splinter as well. Erik immediately declared his distaste for the old look of Splinter, and told me that, though Splinter’s sanity will return, he intends to leave Splinter in his bat-form. When I asked the question that is often brought up regarding the envisioned death of Splinter in Volume 2, #1, Erik confessed to never having read it. Basically, he told me the book is pretty much solely in writer Gary Carlson’s hands, and whatever Gary wants to do, Erik is fine with (and will approve). So if Gary wants to kill Splinter, he will. As Erik continued to talk to his colleagues about how much he hated the way Splinter used to be, I suggested to him he ought to go ahead and kill him off. Bloodthirst? Nah, I just think it’s time, mainly for the reasons I stated to Erik in the lettercol of Body Count #4.

In a recent turn of events in #16, Raphael may have killed Splinter. In a scene on the last page of the issue, Raphael, while in the Astral Plane with his brothers to try and save Splinter, stops the rabid/bat-mutated Splinter from attacking Donatello by stabbing him in the back with his sai. Splinter drops, Raphael looks down on him, and Splinter returns to his rat form and sanity before apparently dying in a sobbing Raphael’s arms. Is it a hoax, a cop-out? Click below to find out the details from TMNT #17.



According to PREVIEWS, in #20 Raphael contacts the Japanese Foot Clan. In #21, Pimiko, Oroku Saki's daughter (last seen in #5), shows up and kidnaps Horridus, Michaelangelo's girlfriend. In #22, Raphael "loses" the fight for control of the New York Foot Clan to a figure identified as Lady Shredder. In #23, this Lady Shredder is busy "painting the town red" and keeps Raphael as her prisoner.

Unless Gary Carlson throws a curveball like he did with the revelation of Raphael becoming Shredder back in #13, the only two candidates that Lady Shredder could be are Pimiko and Karai (the leader of the Japanese Foot, last seen organizing the New York Foot Clan and making peace with the Turtles on their behalf in "City at War," Vol. 1, #50 - 62). Let's look at the clues:

We know that surviving Shredder Elite Foot have, in #16 and #18, sworn allegiance to a female figure that resembles Pimiko. Shredder Elite follow no one but Oroku Saki himself. They even would not listen to Karai, the leader of the Japanese Foot, which forced her in "City at War" to call upon the Turtles to help her execute the Elite. Of course, it might be a different matter if the Elite encountered a leader-hopeful... with the blood of Oroku Saki. Pimiko is his daughter, so that may have been good enough for the Elite to accept her as legitimate. Plus Pimiko was identified as "Lady Pimiko" back in #2.

Further reason to suspect Pimiko as Lady Shredder is in the simple fact that Karai would have no reason to fight the Turtles, least of all Raphael, who she should be thanking for holding the New York Foot Clan together in her absence. Pimiko, on the other hand, has every reason to fight the Turtles. They killed her father twice... what more reason does she need?

The logical candidate for Lady Shredder is Pimiko, but you never know with Gary... he steers you one way one minute, then the next...


( click on thumbnails to enlarge )

TMNT Vol. 3, #19

TMNT Vol. 3, #20

TMNT Vol. 3, #21

TMNT Vol. 3, #22

(from top-left: covers to TMNT Vol. 3, #19, #20, #21, #22, & #23)

See further information about this series on the official TMNT site here.



Go back to Main Page