You may or may not know this, and if you don’t then you suck, but the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were all named after artists of the Renaissance Era. You have Michelangelo, famous for painting the Sistine Chapel; Leonardo Da Vinci, famous for the Mona Lisa; Donatello, famous for his sculpture of David; and Rafael, famous for The School of Athens.
But what if they hadn’t been named after Renaissance artists? What if, instead, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird decided to name them after early 20th century American Writers? How would that have turned out? Which writers would be assigned to which characters?
Let’s start with the OG Master Splinter. While he wasn’t named after a Renaissance artist himself, we figured it’d be fun to rename him anyway because this whole thing is pointless so why not start with the mutant rat that’s also a nina master?
In our remixed new(?) generation…
Master Splinter becomes Master Twain.
While Mark Twain was more late 19th century than early 20th century, his work was a direct influence on later writers just as Splinter’s direct mentorship and training led the Ninja Turtles to become the great fighters that they are. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn might be the first true American classic, and A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is the same weird kind of shit that spawned the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series.
Leonardo becomes Fitzgerald
While Leonardo is rarely anyone’s favorite Ninja Turtle, he is the undisputed leader of the squad. He’s smart, saavy, and rarely gets worked up like the wanna-be leader, Rafael. He plays by the rules, and has a keen sense of morality. There aren’t a lot of people who will admit straight up that The Great Gatsby is their favorite book, but you probably won’t find one more popular from that era, and for good reason. Nobody dislikes Gatsby just like nobody dislikes Leonardo. He’s just not cool enough to be your favorite.
Donatello is Steinbeck
For a little while, Donatello was going to be Faulkner. Something about The Sound and the Fury reminded me of the Ninja Turtles’ style, but Steinbeck has both Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. Grapes are green and purple, Donatello is green and purple. Not only that, but if anyone would be alarmed by the effects of the Great Depression, it’d be Donatello. Steinbeck, like Donatello, is a name you know well, and might say is your favorite, but you couldn’t really give anyone a good reason why.
Michelangelo is T.S. Eliot
For those familiar with the Ninja Turtles, Michelangelo has always assumed the role of the playful kid brother of the unit. While The Wasteland wasn’t all that looney, there’s something inherently goofy about writing poetry, an almost adolescent rebellion quality lives at the heart of the act. Also, if anyone was going to go by initials, it’d be Michelangelo.
Rafael is Hemingway
He likes to fight. He suffers from anger management. He’s short with his words. His masculinity is always at the forefront. If Leonardo, the real leader of the group, is Fitzgerald, then it makes sense that Rafael, the aspiring leader of the group, is Hemingway. While Hemingway was just as qualified and perhaps an even stronger writer than Fitzgerald, it’s hard to argue that Hemingway wrote a more lasting book than A Great Gatsby. When we talk about the American literary canon, Hemingway’s novels aren’t taught nearly as often as Fitzgerald, and while I prefer A Farewell to Arms, I acknowledge A Great Gatsby as THE novel of early 20th century American writing.