Venus De Milo: The Forgotten Female Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have always been a staple of late '80s to '90s geek culture. Four turtle brothers are exposed to mutagen and then raised by a Ninja rat to fight crime and eat pizza in only the most radical of ways. It's so easy to forget that at one point they were once five with a girl turtle, who would go down as one of the most controversial characters in TMNT history.
In The Beginning...
Venus de Milo was introduced in Fall of 1997 in the first episode of the live action NInja Turtles: The Next Mutation. Besides the fact that she was the only female TMNT, she stuck out as being the only one named after not a famous painter, but rather a work of art. She donned an aqua colored bandanna that extended down the length of her back to somewhat resemble a ponytail, further defining her as something different from the team. She was not trained in the art of Ninjutsu like the other turtles, but rather utilized ancient shamanistic magic and manipulated orbs to fight. It's also worth noting that in this adaptation of the show the writers were clear that although the turtles were raised as brothers they were not biologically related. Ultimately their goal would be to introduce Venus and develop a love story between her and one of the turtles.
The story goes that when Splinter rescued the turtle squad from the sewers, he accidentally left Venus behind. Left alone and only to fend for herself, Venus made her way to Chinatown and was found and raised as a daughter by a Shinobi magician who named her Mei Pieh Chi. The two moved to China and Venus trained and grew stronger, completely oblivious to the fact she was not the only one of her kind.
Venus's adopted father, however, knew about the TMNT squad and kept in contact with Splinter through the dream realm. The two discussed many things in their dreams, like turtle training tactics and this crazy mirror the magician had that trapped these evil humanoid dragons. Somehow, the dragons escape and kill Venus's father and trap Splinter's soul in the spirit realm. On his death bed, Venus father tells her about the rest of the turtles and tells her to travel to New York to meet her destiny. All in all, it was some heavy s*** for a kid to experience on a Saturday morning.
Venus goes to New York and meets the turtles, and eventually rescues Splinter by leading the turtle squad through the dream realm. Now officially a part of the team, it seemed like Venus had a bright future ahead of her full of adventure and pizza with the rest of the ninjas in a half shell. The ride for the turtles was indeed radical while it lasted. They even got a crossover episode with the Power Rangers!
Trouble In Paradise...
Not even a Power Rangers crossover could save this show. Fans of TMNT had more than a few complaints about the continuity following the live action movies, as well as the changing of Leonardo's katanas to a double bladed ninjato and Raphael combining his sais to make a staff. David Johnson of DVD Verdict may have summarized the show best with...
"At first glance it's sort of cool, and certainly brings back memories of the days of Corey Feldman-voiced shenanigans. But the cheapness of the production eventually catches up with the show. The turtle costumes look odd, particularly the masks, which appear to be molded out of whatever Gumby is made of. The opponents, be they Foot Clan or others looks less like legitimate threats to turtle well-being and more like your neighbor's weird kid and his friends LARPing in the backyard. When a moderately-budgeted feature film series is unable to figure out how to make Splinter not look like a Muppet with rickets, it's no surprise this shoestring kids show can't stick the landing either."
All that aside, the biggest fan complaint was for the first time, the turtles were not brothers. It seems silly, but fans liked the fact the turtles were a "bound by blood" team, and without it I guess it wasn't the same. In 1998 TMNT The Next Mutation was cancelled after a 28 episode run. This was a big deal at the time because it had been the first time since 1987 the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn't have a show on television.
Life After Death...
While the television series was dead, the turtle squad lived on throughout the continuity of several comics out at the time, which didn't include Venus. Developers of The Next Mutation tried to rectify this by starting a blog called Venus' Venerations in which Venus was to write about her adventures alongside the turtles as they went about their business in the comics. Her first letter reads as follows...
Hello and Happy Greetings of Seasons to you!
I am from China, and am unfamiliar with Christmas and New Year's Eve, but I am learning of this great tradition that you have in America. Christmas is a most holy day, and I will honor it as best as I am able.
I must admit that I am a bit overwhelmed with the season! So many colors and so much music and lights and people scurrying about and singing and ringing bells and the traffic and the cooking and the candy and ... and so very much more! The positive energy being given out at this time is stunning, and it makes me quite happy! I quite like this time of year in the United States, it makes me feel very welcome, indeed!
My new friends and I have been battling the evil forces of the Dragon Lord and his Rank Dragons. I promise you that I will not stray from the Shinobi's duty to keep these vile creatures from our world! I am duty-bound to do so, and will let nothing prevent me from this task save for death!
Enough of such things! Master Splinter tells me that this is a time of great joy for the West, and I will bring no further darkness into this page. I just wanted to assure you that despite the Holiday season, we are fighting to protect our world from any who seek to do evil.
I hope that you are doing well and are healthy and happy, and that this time of peace and love finds you contented. We are most fortunate to be living in these times of great discovery, but we must work hard to maintain balance and light.
Tonight we are to make decorations and egg nog... I do not know what this egg nog is, but Michaelangelo says that it is tasty. He is usually right about food (although his musical tastes often leave me bewildered), so I look forward to having some! I must go. I wish you the very happiest holiday season and will speak with you again!
Peace be with you,
Other letters express her excitement to be in New York City, her longing to return to China, and how Donatello is teaching her Mathematics. All of these entries (around 12 or so) are only accessible through the wayback machine as they were removed in 2008, when co-creator Kevin Eastman sold the remainder of his rights to Peter Laird.
Venus De Milo 1998-2008...
Although the show had many issues spanning from low production values to disregarding canon, the non-brothers aspect seemed to irk most hardcore fans above all else. Venus received the blame, being viewed as shoehorned into the original lineup and the sole reason the turtles were no longer brothers. Furthermore, fans thought it was ridiculous that Venus was a Chinese raised turtle that practiced a magic called Shinobi when Shinobi is actually a Japanese word for ninja. Creator Peter Laird openly despised the character and forbade her from appearing in any future comics, series, or merchandise and removed her letters from the official website. Despite his best efforts, Venus lived on in a one page gag in Image comics where an alien morphed into her and kissed Michelangelo, and on a "Where Are They Now" skit on Robot Chicken.
...And that is the last mention ever made of the forgotten female Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle,