- Chatting about Cartoons, Confessions of a Hypnofetishist, Looking at TV and Film, Thoughts on Comics
The Many Faces of April O’Neil
(with added hypnofetish, just because)
- March 18, 2023
I may not have talked a LOT about it on this site, but I absolutely LOVE the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve been following the franchise since I was a kid and my uncle let me watch TMNT cartoons with him… I watched the old Fred Wolf cartoon, and caught the old 90s live-action movies when they were aired on TV, and when I was a little older I found several issues of the original black and white Mirage comic in used comic book stores. I was there for the 4Kids revival cartoon in the early 2000s, managed to collect quite a few of the various comics published by Mirage, Archie and Image comics… even the Vol 4 Mirage comic written by Peter Laird. Later I found and utterly fell in love with the TMNT comics published by IDW (which I did write a Dina Recommends post about earlier) before getting into the 2012 Nickelodeon CGI series… point is, whenever there was a new TMNT version, I was there. I enjoyed them all… even the terrible Next Mutation live-action show wasn’t completely without its charm. And the Michael Bay movies… okay, no rule without exception.
But part of the fun with the TMNT is that every incarnation is so different. You never know exactly what you’re going to get. If you’re going to be a TMNT fan, you need to learn to embrace change, because this franchise ALWAYS goes somewhere new.
A few years ago… I don’t remember exactly when, but it was shortly after I had rejoined the hypno-community after my long absence (and started contributing as an artist), I came across an erotic hypno-drawing by Trishbot. Maybe not that weird; Trish has done a lot of art and a lot of comics, and is pretty well known in the community. But this particular drawing caught my attention… because not only did it feature April O’Neil, a character from a franchise I have grown up with and loved since I was a kid, but it featured four separate versions of her, from the different animated incarnations that were out at the time. If you’re curious, you can see it here on Hynohub.
I was entranced. The “hypnotic stasis tank” thing seemed kind of hot… and besides, it was refreshing to see that someone was willing to pay attention to the versions of April that WEREN’T the yellow-jumpsuited reporter from the 87 cartoon. I mean… yeah, that April is pretty and all, but she’s not the be-all, end-all of April O’Neil. The Turtle multiverse has so much more variety… and here, Trish was paying homage to that. Is there any wonder I fell for that pic, and remembered it?
Later on, a new incarnation of the TMNT started up, Rise of the TMNT, which had an entirely new April… an April who almost immediately became my undisputed fave incarnation of April O’Neil. She had an energy and a liveliness none of the other Aprils had… the moment in the pilot episode where she leapt into action Leeroy Jenkins-style, complete with the battle cry “APRIIIIIL O’NEIL!” I knew I had found “my” April. Now, with me being a pervy hypnofetishist, I eventually remembered that stasis tank pic and though I kinda wanted to see her alongside the other Aprils in those tanks… For quite some time I pondered if I should ask Trish if it was okay if I did my own version of her April pic, but somehow I never got around to it… that is, until after Rise of the TMNT had been sadly cut short and the teaser trailer for the new animated TMNT movie, Mutant Mayhem, showed up on Youtube. And lots of fans LOST THEIR MINDS at the depiction of April… because she was depicted as an overweight black girl.
HOOO BOY. So much racism and fatphobia, served with a side order of WHINING about the 87 April… because people STILL seemed to think that the TMNT franchise had stood completely still since the 199os and that THAT was the ONLY April EVER. I did remember that a few people had growled that April had been made black in Rise of the TMNT too, but now the racists just came crawling out of the woodworks… all of whom tried to explain how no, they weren’t racist at all, they were just protesting the “forced diversity” and the “wokeness” and… yeeeeah, they were being racist. And let’s not even get into the “no fat chicks” attitude.
Personally, I never saw the big deal. Rise of the TMNT April had been black, and had been the MOST AWESOME APRIL EVER. And really… being black kinda suited April.
Now… this all led to a bit of a debate on whether the original Mirage April was originally meant to be white or not. There’s been some contradicting stories, as Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird don’t seem to quite agree on what exactly happened, but APPARENTLY, April was originally meant to be Asian, and was named after Kevin’s then-girlfriend, who was mixed-race… but for some reason, in her first appearance in the second Mirage comic was drawn as a white woman… then in issue #4 she got a perm that kind of looked more like an afro, and in several panels she certainly looked like she was supposed to be black. Since she so rarely featured on the covers, and her depiction was HUGELY inconsistent, especially during the long “guest artist” run, it seems like some guest artists genuinely thought she was supposed to be black. Most famously, the second printing of issue #32 was in colour, and colourist Bill Fitts mistakenly depicted her as black for the entire issue.
So the idea of a black April wasn’t anything new, even with the TMNT. Now, was she supposed to be “officially” black? Probably not. But the entire debate kind of reminded me of the huge outcry we got back in 2015 when Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione in the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. (This was of course before JKR got all TERFy and hateful and I could still be a HP fan without cringing.) People were SCREAMING that Hermione was supposed to be WHITE and not black, and no, we’re not racist, but Hermione is supposed to be while, just LOOK at this one sentence in one of the books that distinctly said she was pale! It’s the EXACT same whining here: We’re not racist, but April is supposed to be a white, slim and totally fuckable redhead…
…and I’m just sitting here going WHO FUCKING CARES? It’s a new incarnation! It doesn’t have to be the same! In fact, TMNT’s entire thing is that it’s different from incarnation to incarnation, and April has never been consistent. If you can’t accept any other April than the one from the 87 cartoon, then go watch that cartoon and let the new April be her own character!
It was all this commotion that once more made me think of Trish’s drawing, and once more I thought… with all the commotion about April (and lots of people posting porn fan art of 87 April to show how fuckable and hence superior she was) it seemed like the perfect time to do a drawing with more Aprils. Besides, Trish and I HAD briefly talked about doing some kind of art exchange… so I asked her if she would mind if I did my own version of her “Aprils in stasis tanks” drawing. Luckily, she liked the idea, and so I started drawing.
In the end, this was the result:
For those of you who aren’t as well-versed in TMNT lore as me, let me list the different Aprils, with a bit of a commentary on each one:
- 1984: April from the original Mirage comics; the first and original April. This April has a wildly inconsistent design, but for the majority of Vol 1 she had the black curly hair, so it’s what I depicted her with here.
- Not my fave April. She’s kind of… extremely useless for most of her appearances; if she gets involved in the plots at all it’s usually as a damsel in distress, but for the most part she just kind of sits on the sidelines and whimpers. She’s supposed to be a computer programmer, but this hardly ever comes up. Let’s not even get into the mess Vol 4 made of her.
- 1987: April from the 1987 Fred Wolf cartoon, which a lot of people seem to THINK is the first and original April. She’s definitely the most ICONIC April, and the one who gets the most fan art.
- More fun, certainly more active, than Mirage April, though she’s primarily there as a damsel in distress too… but at least her perils are more creative and often feature mind control and transformation. No idea why they made her a reporter, other than giving her more of a “Lois Lane” vibe. She’s okay, I guess, but definitely over-represented in fan art. Give other Aprils a chance!
- 2003: April from the 2003 4Kids cartoon. She’s mostly based on Mirage April, with a similar backstory and job, but more active in the plots and more likely to get in a fight. And with a different design.
- The 4Kids cartoon, at least for the first couple of seasons, was essentially “the Mirage comic, but with a stronger sci-fi slant, better continuity and better characterizations.” April is no exception; she’s a far more useful and active version of Mirage April, more likely to take part in saving the day than needing to be saved. Still not SUPER interesting… Fred Wolf April probably had more fun moments… but not a bad April either.
- 2007: April from the 2007 movie. She’s SUPPOSED to be the same April as the one from the 1990s live-action movie, but really she’s an entirely different version, and seems to be more Lara Croft than anything else.
- Um… this April doesn’t make much of an impression. She seems to be the most “Action Girl” of all the Aprils, but that may be because she’s voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar.
- 2011: April from the IDW comic (my fave version of the TMNT). She’s got some traits from Mirage and 4Kids April but is mostly her own April.
- The IDW comics are the best TMNT incarnation… I believe I’ve said that. IDW April is the first April to skew a little younger; in the when we first meet her she’s a college student and an intern… not quite as scientifically minded, but definitely grounded. She’s not a TERRIBLY interesting April, but she’s likeable enough.
- 2012: April from the Nickelodeon CGI show. Younger and spunkier than the Aprils that came before her; this April started the trend with April being much closer in age to the Turtles.
- Where IDW April started out as a college student, this April started out as a high school student. She’s 16 when the series starts, 18-19 when it ends. She’s one of the more MEMORABLE Aprils, though some of the choices they made with her were a little odd.
- 2018: April from Rise of the TMNT. The BEST April.
- I’ve already sung this criminally underrated April’s praises. She’s got more personality and presence than most Aprils put together, and gets some of the best dialogue. Like her predecessor, she’s 16 when the series begins and 18 in the grand movie finale.
- 2023: April from the upcoming Mutant Madness movie, the one that people on Twitter are screaming about because she’s not the Fred Wolf April.
- Well, we don’t actually know much, or anything, about this April yet. At the time of writing we only have, what, a 15 second clip of her? At the moment she seems mostly like a grungier, less actiony and less gung-ho version or Rise April… but that’s only speculation on my part. Since her movie isn’t out yet I thought it would be fun if she was the only April not yet in hypnotic stasis. You’re next, April…
(I decided not to do any of the live-action Aprils… so no Judith Hoag, Paige Turco or Megan Fox here.)
I did quite a bit of research to get the looks of the various Aprils right, especially since all of them had to be “translated” from wildly varied styles to my own drawing style. I even went through the TMNTpedia to find just how tall every April was, just cause I wanted to try and be accurate with them side by side. Pretty interestingly, the Fred Wolf April is the tallest, being 5’8″ (172cm)… and though I knew April from Rise of the TMNT was likely the shortest, I didn’t realize how TINY she was… only 4’8″ (142cm)! I thought maybe it was because she was young, but she’s actually 18 in the Rise movie and doesn’t seem to have grown any taller. So I guess that April is just short! The only one without an official height is April from the IDW comics, whose design fluctuates quite a bit, but I’m judging her to be roughly the same height as April from the Mirage comics, about 5’4 (162cm). I also tried to keep their builds consistent; though a lot of the art styles had an April that was skinny as a twig, I tried translating it to what looked okay for my style and how I thought the different shapes would translate… 1987 April would definitely have the biggest boobs, 2007 April would have more of an athletic build while 2012 April and Rise April would be the most petite. except Rise April would have wider hips…
…What do you mean, I’m too obsessed with details for just a picture of naked women in stasis tanks? Variation is important! I don’t want all the women I draw to have the same face bust and hips. What am I, an artist for DC Comics?
And this was the backstory of my hypnofetish drawing of the many April O’Neils… as well as a sum-up about my feelinds on the character in general and the silly controversy about her race. April is a constant in the TMNT franchise, but her design, age, personality and job are never set in stone. There’s a lot of variety here… and hopefully I managed, in my own horny little way, to display that.