In 1997, Saban Entertainment created a new entry in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise, TMNT: The Next Mutation. The boldest addition to the mythos in this show was the introduction of a brand new ninja turtle – Venus de Milo. Venus was the first female turtle, and was to reinvigorate the brand, giving Saban Entertainment another mega hit for their arsenal. Unfortunately, Venus failed to live up to expectations, and disappeared into the annals of history just a mere eight months after her creation.
Venus’s origin rewrites the beginning of the ninja turtles. Her story says there were five turtles covered in mutagen, and one was washed away into the sewer, where it was found by shinobi master Chung I. Chung I named the turtle Mei Pieh Chi, and taught her mystical arts for 18 years. After meeting his end at the hands of the Dragonlord in the spirit realm, Chung I entrusted Mei with his mystic mirror, and told her about her birth in New York City. Coming home, Mei was introduced to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their master, Splinter. She was given the nickname Venus de Milo, and joined the boys in their fight to protect NYC.
Venus de Milo had a very innocent persona. She was completely unaware of what the outside world offered (in a much more exaggerated way than the boys ever were), and therefore had to learn everything from square one. This offered a level head unclouded by the fascinations of the modern world, allowing her to see things clearly whenever the situation got especially tense. Ultimately, Venus de Milo didn’t make it past the one season of Next Mutation, though her story continued for a little while online in the form of the “Venus’s Venerations” journal entries. These letters tried to insert her into the same continuity as the other incarnations as the turtles, including having her battle some of the boys’ most dangerous enemies (like Krang). However, only about a dozen were ever written, and by 2001 she faded away entirely.
Venus was not well received by fans for a variety of reasons. The most notable was the fact that her introduction tried to erase the idea that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were siblings. Even though other incarnations never explicitly said whether or not the turtles were related, Next Mutation made the point very clear, and the reason for it even clearer: If the turtles aren’t siblings, then there can be romantic subplots between Venus and the boys. While romance has always been implied between some characters in the other versions, it was a very prominent part of this series, and it didn’t need to be. The action alone can make a compelling show for the right audience.
The portrayal of “shinobi arts” as being strictly mystical was another point of contention for the character. While spiritual aspects are part of ninjutsu, “shinobi” means “ninja”, so there’s nothing magical about the title. So if she were just a shinobi, Venus would only have the same abilities as the other turtles. If the writers wanted to add some sort of mystic element to her character as they did, that’s fine, but it should have been referred to as mysticism, and not shinobi arts.
Venus de Milo will always have a small following that wishes to see her return, as well as a very vocal group of protestors that will never be sad if she fails to show up again (including creator Peter Laird). But whether she’s loved or hated, Venus de Milo was an experiment that needed to happen. The notion of a female turtle, and the aspects of the universe she could influence, wasn’t a new concept for its time. The opportunities it offers (including romance, if done correctly) are numerous, and would provide interesting stories, especially if worked into the 2012 series. While it failed in the implementation, it may be an idea worth trying again in the future. Ultimately, whether or not Venus returns to the screen will be in the hands of the creative minds developing future properties.