ROCKSTEADY & BEBOP:
-Among the most iconic “Idiotic Henchmen” in TV history, Rocksteady & Bebop started life as a pair of goons in a vicious street gang that were sent to assault reporter April O’Neil, who was investigating the Foot Clan’s activities. A stocky blonde guy with short hair, and a skinny black punker (I hate punkers) with a purple mohawk, they were the only named members of a gang that included a shrimpy guy in grey (complete with a sharp hat), a purple New Wave haircut-sporting guy in a black trenchcoat, a lumpy & bald dwarf, and a shirtless muscular guy in S&M gear with a blonde mohawk. And believe it or not, as a kid I was OBSESSED with these other guys. I mean… they were part of the gang that included two recurring villains? Why did we never see them again? What was their story? They had distinctive enough designs (compare them to the goons constantly seen in Gargoyles and you’ll see a lot more work went into these ones) that I figured they HAD to be something. And since this episode was so hard to come by (I don’t recall it airing in most syndicated rotations), and I’d never recorded it, it was IMPOSSIBLE to get much of a track on these guys. One of those weirdly obsessive things I did as a kid that makes me wonder why my mother didn’t have me tested.
But yeah, Shredder makes a plan to turn some henchmen into Mutants, throws two of the gang into a room with some animals, and the rest bug off and disappear from the show- they’re only seen in a bunch of mini-cameos, apparently having been turned into mutants also (okay, this explains why I keep imagining the one guy turning into a bat- the Wiki page shows that actually happened). Later, when Rocksteady & Bebop meet their old gang, it’s an entirely DIFFERENT group of people, and they’re all human.
Rocksteady & Bebop make their mutant debut with a good bit of fanfare, but are IMMEDIATELY defeated when the old “let them run into each other” trick works right out of the gate. An annoyed Shredder sends them after the Turtles again, and THIS time they are much more impressive. Though thick-headed, they are incredibly-strong, and show off a remarkable amount of prowess which includes Bebop THROWING A CAR at the group, both guys sneaking up behind them (on the NINJAS, mind you) and grabbing one guy in each hand, and more. Only careful tactics allow the heroes to win.
This push doesn’t last, obviously. The two are SO STUPID that a never-ending assortment of calamities befoul both them, and anyone who’s a part of their group. Their much-vaunted power avails them little eventually, as they can never score a decent hit again, and they’re usually thrown about into things, or end up defeating themselves. They intially claimed to want to return to human form, but this was eventually dropped. Along with Shredder & Krang, they are exiled into Dimension X in the penultimate season of the TV show, but fail to return when their bosses come back for the tenth (!!) season. The movie Turtles Forever uses them PERFECTLY- they’re idiots who are easy for any bad guy to defeat, but at the end of the episode, their bumbling actually SAVES THE UNIVERSE, as the Evil 2003 Series Shredder is killed once and for all when they plug in a machine (that their buffoonishness had naturally unplugged in the first place) at the exact right moment.
The pair were created by David Wise, who was basically ordered by those from on high to “Make More Mutants”, as these would obviously be the top-selling kinds of toys. Eastman & Laird HATED them, and insisted that the second TMNT movie not include them- they were replaced with ANOTHER pair of buffoonish animal powerhouses instead.
-As the most iconic minions in the series, Rocksteady & Bebop were freqent foes in the Video Games and adaptations of the original TV series, and received countless toys. They appeared in the Archie Comics series, for example, but shifted in character, as their animal sides soon won out, and they exiled themselves to another planet, where they became nudists who fully embraced nature. However, they reappeared later, recruited by Krang and committed robberies on Earth again, so I was wrong and that WASN’T their swan song! However, they were finally convinced to turn their backs on the villains and returned to Eden World.
They took a MASSIVE gap after that, not appearing in the 2003 cartoon at all, but suddenly a couple years in, the Nick toon introduced two random guys who later got mutated and turned into Shredder’s new goons- they were back! But Rocksteady was a Russian military grunt and Bebop was a Michael Jackson-wannabe with a rail-thin frame and a high-pitched voice! They effectively replaced the weaker early minions (Fishface & Dogpound), but were themselves bossed around by Tiger Claw- ultimately, both became good guys, turning on the other villains. They have since appeared in the IDW Comics as well, and given a lot more credibility- they do things like maim Donatello, and are seen as lunkheaded, but exceptionally powerful and cruel. And then of course they both appear in the 2014 film as Shredder’s new minions, being again… big stupid morons.
So it seems like the pair were kind of shit on for being “too silly” and damaging the seriousness of these nudist mutant turtle ninjas, but the fact that the core generation of people who watched the cartoon grew up into dorks has given the series a new dose of nostalgia, and now they’re popping up in all the fiction again!
ROCKSTEADY & BEBOP’S GANG:
-So it turns out that the other guys in their gang made a few more appearances in the early episodes. Which is weird because I definitely saw those, and you’d think that would have stuck with me more, given how obsessed I was about them, particularly the guy in the long jacket. The appear in the second episode being mutated, and appear in a jail cell in the Technodrome later on… but we never find out what happened to them, and they stop appearing after the first season. It’s implied that their mutations didn’t “take” and they suck at fighting.
SCRAG: A tall, thin punk with a purple spiky haircut and long black jacket, Scrag is the most visually-interesting, and the one I was most obsessed with. In his final appearance in the series, he shows up as a a bat-mutant (looking like Wingnut without the wings), and is zapped back to human by Shredder with a “Retromutagen Gun” as proof that the device works- Shredder then insists Splinter and the Turtles come and get it, so Splinter can become human again. Naturally, this is a trap.
DUMBO: A short, muscular, bald dwarf, Dumbo used a chain. He was mutated into a dog-man, and was later placed behind bars in the Technodrome.
DOPEY: Dopey is a lanky guy with a huge nose and a grey hat, wielding a club- I still remember Leonardo chopping the top of it off and Dopey just looking at it with this dumbfounded expression on his face. He appears later as a mutated shrew-man, as his nose is now curled up.
GRUNT: A medium-height, very muscular punk in S&M gear and a yellow mohawk, Grunt was later turned into a lizard-man.
LUGNUT: A muscular bald guy added later.
JERSEY RED: A short, thick girl with red punk-rock hair. Added later.
Rocksteady’s tough rhino body makes him a turtle-bashing powerhouse. His lack of smarts makes him dangerous. This mutant mammal is big trouble with his Retro-Mutagen Gun: one shot can level a whole building or a shelled turtle. Off-duty, Rocksteady loves to fry up a mess of juicy turtle burgers for the whole hungry Foot Clan.
Rocksteady’s fieldglasses survey the area for anything that looks like a Turtle. (He’s mistakingly blasted six soccer balls). This G.I. rockhead blatantly displays his victory kills with the turtle scalps he wears around his belt.
Bebop is the mutant punk rock hog who could slam dance his way through any crowd. This roadhog warrior dares to shave his head in blatant opposition to the establishment and his parents. Behind his mohawk ponytail, cool shades and all-star tennis shoes lurks the heart of a pig, ready to pulverize the Turtles. Guided by the evil Shredder, Bebop is willing to roll in the mud to snort out the Turtles. His two turtle shoulder pads cover a grotesque array of safety pins, tattoos and junk food.
Always at his side, the Shell Drill serves as a constant reminder that the party’s not over… until every Turtle lies on its back.
-Rocksteady was completely re-envisioned for the 2012 Nick series, and in fact it took me a bit to realize what they were doing, as he started off as this old Russian associate of the Shredder’s. A military guy, he had a thick accent and wasn’t a complete idiot, so you can see how I was clueless at first. Eventually, he was mutated, along with a guy who became Bebop. The two were standard minions, Rocksteady quite aggressive, but they ultimately turned on their bosses after a few seasons (they refused to destroy the world), ending up as heroes.
-In the Nick Toon, Bebop is reimagined as a scrawny, ultra-quick thief on rollerblades, working for the man who becomes Rocksteady- he is mutated a few episodes after his debut, and is furious when Mikey starts calling him “Bebop”- no idea why he maintains that name thereafter, then.