This week, we take a look at the TMNT’s aquatic buddies! All… four of them. It’s weird! Read on!
You smell something fishy? That’s because you just picked up Ray Fillet, the coolest sea creature to ever leap from the deep. Spawned from a marine biologist and a manta ray, Ray Fillet emerged from a toxic sewer pipe only to discover himself super-strong and super-slimy.
He’s a Foot-fightin’ fish who helps the Turtles when they’re in deep trouble – underwater, that is. Ray rescues best when he’s submerged, ’cause his color changing transforms him from water wimp to a fist-fighting fish. Aquatically assisted by Fish Stix, Ray Fillet filters out crime from the coral reef. Using his mean-faced Scarfish weapon and Ray Gill Gun, the Foot don’t stand a chance when they’re up to their knees in water.
MAN-RAY (aka Ray Fillet):
Among the more-prominent “Turtle Ally” characters is Man-Ray, often called “Ray Fillet” due to copywrite issues with the professional artist known as “Man Ray”. He was created for the Archie Series, and was a nerdy marine biologist who annoyed the Turtles by badgering them with Undersea Facts, but was soon nearly-drowned and mutated thanks some illegal Mutagen dumping near the aquarium where he worked. Turning into a huge, super-strong Manta Ray, the hero assaulted Shredder and nearly killed him (he pulled the underwater breathing apparatus from Shredder’s face while they were in the ocean). Later, he joined the Mighty Mutanimals, a TMNT spin-off in which he was kind of the kindly, level-headed guy on a team with a Bruiser (Leatherhead), Bad-Ass (Dreadmon), Determined Leader (Jagwar), Fun Guy (Mondo Gecko) and Exciteable Youth (Wingnut). Tragically, he is murdered along with the rest of the Mutanimals by agents of Null’s.
Ryan Brown, the writer of Man-Ray’s debut, had written an indie comics story featuring a lot of Manta Ray symbolism earlier, and used similar panels in his Archie debut. The creators of the character (including artist Stephen Murphy), objected to his use as a villain in a cartoon episode, and so the character got shifted into this lame, generic green fish-man named “Ray”. This is the only time I can think of that happening- the vast majority of characters shifted so were done regardless of the original canon- Mondo Gecko, Wingnut and most prominently Leatherhead were all turned into Villains of the Day, though Mondo was manipulated by someone else. But the show did this pretty routinely- if they wanted to showcase a new TMNT figure, they typically just wrote a generic episode where he was a villain who could fight the boys.
A bespectacled Man-Ray appears in the IDW Comics, acting very intellectual and being able to stun guys with barbs. He isn’t a major character, but joined that continuity’s Mighty Mutanimals. Surprisingly, no variant of him ever showed up in the 2012 Nick Toon.
So like I said, the creators of Man-Ray were upset over the intentions to use him as a one-off villain in a TMNT cartoon, and were able to successfully get the character’s name changed. And in so doing, they got him shifted into one of the show’s worst designs- a generic green scaly guy with few identifying features. He was working for a mad doctor who mutated April into a fish-woman to act as a mate for Ray (who didn’t act evil so much as lazy, and was mostly a minion of the doctor), and was then dumped out to sea, which he figured was for the best- he seemed perfectly happy to be on his own out there.
Ray, like a lot of debuting TMNT villains, got to house the entire team- at one point, he knocks out all four Turtles by using electricity. He’s impossible to grapple or pin down, and can keep them at bay with Quill blasts, too.
MERDUDE (Alim Coelocanth/Jacques):
The Comic version was from the Mighty Mutanimals book, and he one of their few allies to survive. He always looks very… STIFF… in his bio-pictures- like they didn’t want to draw him too feminine/fishlike, so he’s always standing straight-up, despite being an aquatic character. He’s apparently an oceanographer/Jacques Cousteau type (or a prehistoric child; one bio makes him French, while another page on the Turtlepedia site mentions him being the prehistoric kid) who got hit by some mutagen and helped the heroes fight off some pirates. The toy one has a bio that mentions that he’s a king, and gives him a TON of weapons (that version is included here). Below is the cartoon version.
The cartoon had a completely different character- Alim Coelocanth (“Merdude” was a nickname given by Michaelangelo) was the true ruler of the Lost City of Atlantis, and left over 200 years ago in search of others like him. He helped Mikey out of a jam involving sewer rapids, and the TMNT agreed to help him find his homeland. He is forced into fighting Bebop in a trial by combat (because of course there is one), but his ally Hepax gives him the “Trident of Power” and quickly wins the battle. He summons a giant squid to seal a hole created by the Shredder, who has stolen the “Star of Atlantis”, which powers the Atlantean Defense System. When it’s returned, he quickly fends of Shredder’s forces.
The episode’s pretty trademark in its TMNT ’87 silly glory, with this guy just popping up in the sewers and IMMEDIATELY the Turtles are ready to help him out- it’s all of 2 minutes in before they’re on their way. And then Bebop is instilled as the ruler of Atlantis because the “prophecy” (of course) says that their king will resemble an animal (all Atlanteas but Alim are human-looking).
Soon, Alim and the TMNT arrive in Atlantis, despite having no idea where it is at first- not only is this never explained, but neither is the fact that the Turtles are SWIMMING. UNDERWATER. For GOD KNOWS HOW LONG. Like seriously, they just kind of motor along behind Alim with no Scuba Gear or anything. And they’re talking the entire time! NOBODY EXPLAINS THIS. And later, the Atlanteans mention that they need “Breathing Equipment”, showing that the writer (David Wise, of course) is DEFINITELY AWARE that most creatures can’t just swim through the water endlessly. Rocksteady actually pulls off a REALLY slick move, when he stomps on a cell key Leo & Mikey are reaching for, snatches both of their wrists, pulls them together into one hand while the other disarms Leo’s sword, then PUNCHES Leo halfway across the room! You do NOT see that kind of fight choreography very often!