There is a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. The fact that she is female just adds to the online clamor.
Most of that clamor says that she is the first female turtle. But, long-time fans know this isn't true. If you were an avid Saturday morning couch surfer in the 90s, then you'll remember Venus de Milo. Venus was a part of the live-action, Ninja Turtles: the Next Mutation.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History by Andrew Farago paints the "no girl Turtle" rule, and the turmoil it caused. TMNT co-creator, Peter Laird, was against the idea of Venus. But Fox Kids, the network who produced Next Mutation, insisted -- "girl turtle or no TV show." Venus ultimately served as the Yoko Ono to Eastman and Laird. Laird and Kevin Eastman created the popular franchise in the mid-80's. Due to said circumstances, the two split ways by the show's cancellation in the late-90's.
"It's fair to say that while my personal and business relationship with Kevin had already been sorely stressed in previous years, the 'girl Turtle' debacle was the classic 'straw that broke the camel's back.' The partnership essentially ended at that point," page 136 of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History quotes Laird about his split with Eastman.
It's also important to note that when Image Comics was publishing TMNT comics (currently reprinted via IDW as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends), writer Gary Carlson and artist Frank Fosco gave us another female turtle. However, this was used as more of a throwaway gag. Perhaps, even to spite Laird's "no girl Turtle" rule. Pun intended on the "gag" part. The turtle brothers paid a visit to fellow Image character, Vanguard. A shapeshifter named Lurch, aboard Vanguard's spaceship, had fooled Michaelangelo into making out with it. When he discovered that, instead of a sexy reptile, he was kissing a changeling pile of goo, Mikey wanted to vomit.
Lurch may have been for comedic purposes. And Venus probably leaves a bad taste in several mouths. But Jennika seems to be a hit.
The current run of IDW comics is blazing to a hundred issues. "City at War," the arc that is paving the road to 100, is inspired by the long-running arc from the original Mirage Studios comics created by Eastman and Laird. In both the Mirage and IDW runs, our heroes are pitted against Karai, the granddaughter of Shredder. Jennika, a member of the villainous Foot Clan, initially appeared as a human in issue #51 of the IDW comics. Killing Shredder, the Turtles' sensei, Splinter, took control of the Foot Clan. In turn, Jennika served Splinter, and became an ally to the Turtles. Karai initiated the "City at War" by demanding her birth right back from Splinter. And as if her point wasn't heard loud enough, in #93, she fatally wounded Jennika with her mythically-powered sword. No time to lose, the Turtles rushed Jennika to the hospital. However, Karai was two steps ahead of them. Her own mutants stood guard in front of the hospital, blocking any attempts to bring Jennika to safety. So, they brought her to Dr. Harold Lilja. With Lilja's help, Donatello used Leonardo's blood to mix with a mutagen and injected it into Jennika. Thus, mutating her into a Turtle.
The value of IDW's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ongoing #95 has risen tremendously over the cover price of $3.99. On eBay, such copy can go for over $150. #95 marks Jennika's first appearance as a Turtle. But she doesn't actually become a Teenage Mutant Ninja one until #97. Note that she isn't really a teenager, she became a mutant the very moment Donatello injected with the mutagen, and she's already been a ninja for quite a while. To defend my argument though, I don't think she really earned the title of a TMNT until she donned a colored mask (yellow), and was armed with her signature weapons (claws, in the style of Wolverine). A variant cover of each issue is drawn by original co-creator, Eastman. His alternate cover of #97 depicts Jennika in all her Teenaged Mutated Ninjistu Turtle-glory.
So Eastman may be digging this new girl Turtle. But the question remains unanswered: what does Laird think of this?