Meaning: Angel Michael
Role: Comic Relief, Party Dude
Named After: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
Personality: Fun, Light-Hearted, Easy-Going
Splinter – Father
Raphael – Brother
Donatello – Brother
Leonardo – Brother
April O’Neil – Friend/Love Interest
The youngest of the four turtle brothers, Michelangelo is the wisecracking, fun-loving jokester. He lives to enjoy everything to the fullest, and finds the greatest pleasures in video games, comic books, and as much pizza as he can get his hands on. He is often teamed up with Donatello in battle, and as such is closest to that brother. However, he also has an affinity for Raphael, who has been known to look out for his little brother when needed. Though he tries not to be serious whenever possible (and is known for making jokes in every battle), Mikey can be focused when needed. He has the ninjutsu skills necessary to fight, and handles his nunchaku with the ability of a Grand Master. Despite lacking the focus, power, and intellect of his brothers, Michelangelo’s own spirit and energy make him an exceptionally valued asset to the team.
Initially, Michelangelo wasn’t the joker or comic relief. He did have a very energetic and light-hearted personality, but was still serious and dedicated to ninja training without the need for one-liners. He’s enthralled with stories about superheroes, and strives to be one. Never at odds with anyone, and growing exceptionally close to Donatello throughout their adventures, Mikey would often serve as the voice of reason for his brothers, stepping in to stop disputes, especially between Leonardo and Raphael.
In the 1987 series, Michelangelo was turned into a stereotypical comic relief character, and not much else. He was a caricature of two personality traits, pizza and jokes, but retained many of his likes and relationships from the original comic because they required little effort to transfer over to the new character (and didn’t need much explanation about why they exist). Mikey still likes comic books and superheroes, he shares a special relationship with Raphael, and is an easy-going individual. He was also provided with a catchphrase that stuck through future incarnations, and “cowabunga” became a staple of 1990s pop culture. Michelangelo would often flirt with April, finding the woman to be especially attractive and interesting.
TMNT: The Next Mutation saw Michelangelo grow a little bit in terms of his interests, now hosting of a pirate radio broadcast. However, none of that stuck, and 2003 brought him back to his roots. He had the fun loving, wisecracking nature of his 1987 counterpart, but gained some seriousness toward his ninja training, and a deeper understanding of what it meant to be part of a team. He was once again more than just a simple caricature, and this was emphasized through the use of several Mikey-specific episodes that helped him understand the meaning and responsibility of being a hero. He started off a little immature, respecting and often annoying the other turtles, but his skills continued to develop and he was always a valued asset of the team.
The 2012 series brought the return of 1987 Michelangelo’s constant joking, but not in a way that made him annoying, and not in a way that inhibited his ability as a ninja. Like with his brothers, this series played up the “teenage” aspect of Michelangelo. When coupled with his place as the youngest brother, the constant one-liners and happy-go-lucky attitude becomes understandable, and completely acceptable. His personality seems to have no effect on his ninja training, either, and he often proves his skills in battle and around the house (as evidenced by exceptional use of the egg ninja smoke bombs to show his mastery over the shinobi-iri technique of ninjutsu). This series also gave Mikey an additional weapon, with his nunchaku also doubling as kusarigama (chained sickles), and a new catchphrase – booyakasha
Through the first two movies, Michelangelo was used for his comic relief and nothing else. He was meant to lighten the mood, and that’s exactly what he did. In the third movie, though, more of Michelangelo as an individual was explored, including his immaturity and fleeting understanding of love and relationships. Despite his constant flirting with April, he was shown in the third film to have true romantic feelings for someone (something previously left to Leonardo and Karai in other media), and could finally grow as an individual through the heartbreak. By the fourth film, Mikey was similar to his comic book and 2003 counterpart, still the best for comedy, but better trained and able to fend off even demonic forces.
Michelangelo has always been a fan favorite, which has given him a lot of screen time over the years. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, his mentality, dialogue, and personal interests made him completely relatable to the youth market he was supposed to connect with. The audience wanted someone hip who could stick it to the man with witty comebacks and one-liners, and Mikey fit that role. However, all of that also meant that he was able to get more character development than any of the turtles. Such a casual character could still be explored from many different angles, simply because of his own nature. Could he take a battle seriously? What would happen to his personality if he suffered serious loss? Would running out of pizza cause him to snap and lose control? These were all inquiries that writers could explore without much trouble.
Mikey’s relationships with his brothers and friends have never been as rigid as some of the other turtles’ interactions. While Raphael and Leonardo always have a very pronounced rivalry, Michelangelo is free to make friends with whomever he chooses, and get close to whichever brother seems most appropriate. Donatello has usually been that turtle, given his more gentle nature makes him easier to be around than Leonardo or Raphael. However, there were times (like the 1987 series) where Mikey was closer to Raph than anyone else. Due to their popularity with fans, Mikey and Raph would often play one-liners against each other, complementing the comedic timing just right. The rest of the time, Raphael always protected his youngest brother, but they were never portrayed as substantially closer than anyone else.
There has always been an odd interaction between Michelangelo and April O’Neil for most of his incarnations. Mikey constantly flirts with her, suggesting that he has some sort of romantic interest. However, no crush has ever been teased out in any of those instances, even simply to the extent to put an end to the romantic undertones and focus on the action.
As the youngest brother, he is also drawn as the smallest member of the team. Whereas his brothers’ personality traits and defining characteristics could conceivably be interchanged without much difficulty (Donatello could be a leader, Leonardo could be short-tempered, and Raphael could be tech savvy), Michelangelo is distinctly himself in every way. His personality only fits with his own character, and no one else would be quite right in the role that he embodies, although thanks to years of reimagining it would just feel wrong to have any of the turtles trying to be anyone but themselves.
Michelangelo has always stood out as a character so unique that there is no analogue in other shows, even 30 years after his creation. Without him, the rest of the turtle team would be lost, and the fans wouldn’t have the infusion of humor that makes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the show they have grown to love.
Michelangelo’s biggest fear is betrayal.
At one time, Michelangelo had a pet cat named Klunk.
Michelangelo is responsible for both of the turtles’ signature catchphrases: “cowabunga” and “booyakasha”.
There is no specific ninjutsu art for nunchaku technique, with the closest analogue being kusarigamajutsu, mastery of the chain sickle weapon (which Michelangelo does possess and use in his latest incarnation).