While most fans’ attentions were understandably more focused on producer Seth Rogen’s decision to subject April O’Neil to her second such race-swap in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, it seems two more members of the Turtles’ cast have likewise received a ‘modern update’.
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These changes revealed in a series of promotional images released alongside the trailer – which did announce the actors’ participation but did not specify their roles – it appears that Wingnut and Leatherhead will have their genders-swapped in their silver screen debuts.
Per said images, the franchise’s resident Batman parody will be portrayed by actress Natasia Demetriou, one of the stars of the television version of What We Do In The Shadows:
While the fan-favorite crocodile mutant will be brought to life by Peter Rabbit and X-Men: First Class star Rose Byrne:
As noted above, these casting decisions – under the presumption that, like both this film and Across the Spider-Verse, respective characters must share their superficial traits with their voice actors – will result in the two characters being presented as women rather than their originally intended male forms.
First briefly introduced in the Peter Laird-produced comic series included with American food producer Ralston Purina’s 1989 cereal, Wingnut makes his first proper appearance in the 123nd episode of the 1987 animated series, Zach and the Alien Invaders.
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Therein, the bat-like creature is depicted as an alien invader intent on taking over planet Earth. His plan to turn the children of Earth into mindless zombies ultimately stopped by the Turtles, the franchise’s expanded universe later sees Wingnut become one of their staunchest allies.
Conversely, though Wingnut is a rather minor character in the whole of TMNT lore, Leatherhead is one of the series’ most recognizable and beloved characters.
Rising from the sewers in the sixth issue of Ryan Brown and Jim lawson’s canon 1988 series Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – itself launched by Mirage Studios to specifically introduce characters and expand the Turtles’ support cast – Leatherhead began life as a baby alligator in the Florida everglades.
However, after coming into contact with the series’ signature mutagen, Leatherhead found himself not only sporting a new humanoid form, but also an equivalent intellect.
In the aftermath of his change, Leatherhead finds himself regularly running into the Turtles, sometimes as their enemy – a role he most notably fulfilled in the 1987 cartoon – but mostly as their ally.
And of course, as is particularly obvious given his constantly-shirtless-appearance, Leatherhead was originally created as a male character.
In a brief aside, these character alterations – April included – come as particularly hilarious as while Rogen clearly made them in the name of ‘representation’, his own role in the film as Bebop actually white washes an originally black character.
As shown during his pop culture debut in the 1987 cartoon’s very first episode, prior to being exposed to Shredder’s machinations, Bebop was an outright black man.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem grinds into theaters on August 4th, 2023.
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