Leonardo (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
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Leonardo, the leader of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
|First appearance||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
|Created by||Kevin Eastman
|Team affiliations||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles|
|Abilities||Highly skilled in ninjutsu
Olympic-level agility, speed, and strength
Master of stealth
Mastery of kenjutsu and iaidō
Leonardo, or Leo, is a fictional character and one of the four protagonists of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and all related media. In the Mirage/Image Comics, all four turtles wear red bandanas, but in other versions, he wears a blue bandana. His signature weapons are two katana. Throughout the various media, he is depicted as the leader of the four turtles and the most disciplined. He is named after Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo is depicted as the eldest brother and the calmest of the four. He never explicitly referred to himself as leader in the early stories, except issue #44 ("The Violent Underground"). He is the one to usually take charge of the turtles when Master Splinter is not present. He is often at odds with his more hot-headed brother, Raphael.
In Leonardo #1, Leonardo goes out for a run on the rooftops of New York City and is ambushed by the Foot Clan. He puts up an admirable fight against an army of Foot Ninja, but is eventually overwhelmed by them. Beaten to near unconsciousness, he is thrown through April O'Neil's apartment window. The remaining Turtles and Splinter are forced to continue the fight, but even with the aid of Casey Jones, the odds are against them. In the end, the building catches fire and the police arrive, but they secretly escape to Northampton. During this time, Leonardo recovers from his physical wounds. However, he has lost a great deal of confidence. He repeatedly attempts, unsuccessfully, to hunt for deer. While out hunting, he sees April fall through ice into a lake, and he rescues her. In subsequent issues, it is implied that Leonardo has regained most of his confidence.
In the Return to New York storyline (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (vol. 1) #19-21), Raphael demands that the Turtles return to New York to confront the Foot Clan and the Shredder. He accuses Leonardo of cowardice, and the arguing brothers soon come to blows. Leonardo is beaten by Raphael, who throws Leonardo through the wall of the barn and leaves alone. Along with Donatello and Michaelangelo, Leonardo returns to New York and reunite with their wayward brother in the old sewer lair. The three go along with Raphael's plan to storm the Foot Head Quarters, where once again Raphael goes off on his own to fight the Shredder. However, he is ambushed and beaten by the Shredder's Elite guard, but is rescued by Leonardo. This prompts Raphael to finally cede to Leonardo's leadership, leaving him to fight the Shredder. Leonardo engages in a bloody battle with Shredder that spills out onto the rooftop of the building. Leonardo ends the battle by decapitating the Shredder just as the building implodes. The Turtles later burn the Shredder's corpse in a funeral pyre in a nearby Manhattan harbor.
In the City at War storyline (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (vol. 1) #50-62), a feud between various factions of the Foot Clan over leadership breaks out. As fighting ensues in the streets of New York, the Turtles and the civilian populace get caught in the middle. Leonardo grows weary of constant battle with the Foot Clan and seems fraught with indecision. The Turtles are approached by Karai, the leader of the Foot Clan in Japan who has come to New York to unite the Foot. She presents the Turtles with an offer of a truce between the Foot and the Turtles if they help her kill Shredder's Elite Guards, which are a major obstacle to her reorganizing the Foot. Leonardo persuades his brothers to accept Karai's offer (much to Raphael's chagrin) and all four Turtles successfully work with Karai to eliminate the Elite Guard.
In Volume 2 of the Mirage Studios comic, the turtles begin living in separate places. Leonardo decides to live in a newfound sewer lair. Michaelangelo and Raphael notice a change in Leonardo and note that he seems more easygoing, though Raphael points out that his and Leonardo's natural order is to be "buttin' heads."
Years later in Volume 4, Leonardo still leads his brothers (all four now in their thirties) in fights against crime. Leonardo and Raphael's conflict seems to have greatly lessened. When the Utroms make a very public arrival on Earth and reveal alien life to humans, however, the Turtles become free to mingle in everyday society. The Turtles also help the Utroms acclimate to life on Earth and work alongside the Foot Clan as security. One Foot Clan member is Cha Ocho, who Leonardo has a rivalry with due to an encounter years earlier. Karai approaches Leonardo for help when a mysterious force begins attacking various Foot Clans; only the New York branch is left intact. His investigation takes him to the Battle Nexus, where he meets Oroku Yoshi (who wears armor similar to the Shredder's).
In Volume 3 of the Image Comics series, Leonardo was initially portrayed as similar to his Mirage counterpart (at the time, Image was picking up where Volume 2 left off). In the later issues, he lost a hand, although this did not seem to deter him significantly. He tried initially to use a prosthetic hand, which was given to him by Donatello, but he much preferred to wear a steel cap which came with a retractable blade.
Volume 4 would later ignore all events in the Image series (though it is still referred to as "Volume 3").
The Archie Comics series initially began as an adaptation of 1987 animated series, so Leonardo was naturally portrayed like his animated counterpart. As the series progressed, it began telling original stories. Leonardo demonstrated a rather strong dislike for firearms. Also, a future version of Leonardo was depicted, having founded a ninja school. Four of his top students were depicted: Nobuko, possibly his love interest; Miles, a young black man; Carmen, a Latino woman; and Bob, an anthropomorphic baboon. These students seemed to have an "extended family" relationship with the Turtles, Bob in particular referring to them as uncles.
Although the IDW series is a complete comic reimagination of the franchise, Leonardo is initially portrayed as similar to his Mirage counterpart. Leonardo is once again depicted as the eldest brother and the calmest of the four.
1987 animated series
In the 1987 TV series' theme song lyrics, Leonardo is said outright to be the leader of the TMNT, and there is little disputing this; his orders are usually followed, and he is a very serious do-gooder who hardly ever makes wise cracks. In one episode, he suffered a crisis of confidence and left the group to do some soul searching; his brothers all tried their hands at being the leader in his stead, only to find that none of them could match his leadership skills, and he came back to them. He was attracted to a young kunoichi named Lotus, a swordswoman prodigy from Japan who was hired by Krang to replace Shredder, whom she easily defeated (along with Rocksteady and Bebop). She and Leonardo dueled to a standstill before she resorted to a trick sword to knock him out. When they met the second time, she tried to convince him to join her as "ninja for hire", but he refused. She turned on Krang and escaped to continue her mercenary lifestyle, telling Leonardo that there was little good in goodness, though she hoped that they would one day be on the same side. This is the only version of the TMNT mythos where Leonardo does not have his sibling rivalry with Raphael.
When the cartoon series starts out, he is shown with having a very level head, akin to his leadership qualities in the comic. However, as the series carried on, he became more reactionary and at times would screech in the very high pitched voice, which was very different from the original, deeper pitch in the first season. This presumably may have been the result of the writers downplaying Leonardo as a hero in favor of Michelangelo and Raphael, who were more popular with audiences.
This is seemingly the first of two incarnations of the TMNT in which Leonardo's swords are curved, thus the term katana could be used although sometimes, they are depicted as straight. Leonardo also seems to enjoy reading. For example, many times when the Turtles are at home, Leo is reading a book. In the episode Four Musketurtles, he is the only Turtle that read The Three Musketeers. Another good example is in "Leonardo is Missing"; while the other Turtles go to an arcade, Leonardo stays at the lair and reads. In the Season 6 episode "Snakes Alive", it is revealed that Leonardo has Ophidiophobia, but confronted it later.
In the Season 3 episode "Take Me to Your Leader", Leonardo gives up his leadership and walks away after a dream he believes convinces him he is no longer a good leader. The others have to find him, and stop Shredder, Krang, and Bebop and Rocksteady from draining energy from the Sun with a Solar Siphon and store it in solar batteries. However, Leonardo returns when he spots a bridge collapsing due to snow. After a man says that everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything, Leonardo realizes his responsibility and begins to search for his brothers. He later finds them, and together they save the Earth.
Leonardo's voice actor was Cam Clarke (in his "breakout role" and is still one of his best known parts) in the original 1987 cartoon show's English language and Ido Mosseri in the Hebrew language dub. In the crossover movie Turtles Forever, this version of Leonardo is voiced by Dan Green in the original English version and Tom Wentzel in the Finnish language version.
Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation
In 1997-1998, Leonardo along with the other Ninja Turtles were featured in a short-lived live-action series Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, as well as a crossover episode with Power Rangers in Space. In it, he carried one double bladed ninjaken instead of two and his sibling rivalry with Raphael drove many episodes. In one episode where they were sparring, Raphael took advantage of Leo's apparent physical weakening, insulting, mocking and taunting his brother to make him more reckless, until finally Leo lost his temper and angrily kicked Raph so hard that he sent Raph flying across the sewer den. They spent the rest of the episode arguing and challenging each other to tests of skill (some of them quite absurd) until finally using arm wrestling to decide who would live in the sewer and who would leave. Although Leo won, it was decided that Raph should stay. In this series, Leonardo was portrayed by Gabe Khouth and voiced by Michael Dobson.
2003 animated series
In the Mirage Studios and 4Kids Entertainment 2003 animated TV series, Leonardo is voiced by Michael Sinterniklaas in the English version, Tetsuya Kakihara in the Japanese version, and Samuel Harjanne (seasons 1 and 2) and Markus Blom in the Finnish version.
Leonardo is the de facto leader of the group and the most "spiritual" of the four. He has a very close bond with Splinter, and has a strong sense of honor, ethics, and Bushidō. Leonardo's twin swords are slung across his back. Episodes that deal with the Shredder and honor usually also focus on Leonardo, and he is often the Turtle who "saves the day". Leonardo is a more sensitive, self-doubting character than in previous incarnations. Raphael often quarrels with him and resents his leadership, sarcastically calling Leonardo "Fearless Leader", although the two are shown to be very close at times. Though Leonardo's relationships with his other brothers Michelangelo and Donatello are not as volatile, both have made comments alluding to the high standards the former has set, and his tendency to make them look bad. Despite this, his brothers view him as a pillar of strength and are at a loss when he is injured or absent. One of Leonardo's most prominent qualities is his determination to believe the best in people, even potential enemies (i.e., Karai, Traximus, and Quarry).
At times, Leonardo is shown to be very hard on himself, as he feels that a lot is expected of him. As in the Mirage comics, Leonardo is ambushed and seriously injured by the Foot Clan and he feels he let his family and himself down. He has the same feelings after the final battle with the Shredder-his anger and self-doubt was caused by Karai, whom he believed was an honorable ally, but she was unable to go against her master's orders, eventually causing her to stab Leonardo (albeit unintentionally). Leonardo also feels extremely inadequate, as he believes that again, he let himself and his family down, this time by finding no other way to destroy the Shredder than to blow up the spaceship that both the Shredder and the Turtles were on; the Turtles and Splinter would have perished if they had not been rescued by Utroms. Eventually, Leonardo finds inner peace under the guidance of the Ancient One, who trained Splinter's sensei, Hamato Yoshi. From their final battle with the Shredder, Leonardo was the only Turtle to sustain truly lasting damage; part of his shell on his upper left shoulder had its edge shorn. Nevertheless, he is arguably the most skilled of the Turtles, being the only one trained by two senseis and is capable of facing and defeating Karai, the new Shredder, in a one-on-one fight.
Through much of the fourth season, Leonardo becomes increasingly stern. His brothers worry about him and Splinter feels he must move on. It comes to a head when Leonardo loses his temper and nearly causes Splinter serious injury during a training session. Splinter sends Leonardo to find Master Yoshi's own sensei, The Ancient One. Leonardo encounters a strange short man, as well as obstacles that echo his own anger. In the end, Leonardo admits that he was angry over failing his family while fighting the Shredder and that his only option was to self-destruct the ship to stop him. Leonardo comes to terms with his anger and begins training under the short man, who turns out to be the Ancient One. Leonardo only leaves when he learns that his family is in danger (a result of Karai's vengeance, which destroys the lair and presumably eliminates them). Leonardo returns to the city, reunites his family in a safe location, and battles Karai (giving her one last chance to leave the Turtles in peace).
In the fifth season, of the eight acolytes under the Tribunal's training, Leonardo is the only one who doesn't receive a weapon from the Spirit Forge. It is later revealed that the weapon the Spirit Forge bestowed upon Feragi was always meant to be his. His otherworldly form is that of a dragon, a rare form, unheard of in someone his age. It is shown destroying evil guarding the second artifact. This avatar is first shown in "More Worlds Than One". His brothers later exhibit dragon avatars as well. In the fifth episode "Beginning of the End", he is given the sword "Gunshin" (one of the Fangs of the Dragon that commands the "White Flame of the Dragon King") by the wounded Feragi. He returns Gunshin in episode 12 "Enter the Dragons" when Feragi returns to help battle the Shredder.
2012 animated series
Leonardo again leads the team in Nickelodeon's animated series, voiced by actor Jason Biggs.
 In this version, Leonardo seems to be inexperienced and still honing on his leadership skills to make more solid decisions and to gain more trust from his brothers. He regularly watches an animated science fiction show called Space Heroes (a parody of Star Trek: The Animated Series) and uses it as a guide for his leadership skills. Leonardo develops an attraction to Karai, even though she is the Shredder's daughter and is tasked with destroying him and his family. His weapons here are purely katana which he uses in the Niten Ryu style of kenjutsu.
Original live-action trilogy
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Leonardo was fairly modest and sensitive, rarely issuing direct commands and seemingly much more relaxed around his brothers thinking of himself as more of an equal than a leader. It was he who first communicated telepathically with a kidnapped Splinter and seems the most anxious about Raphael's health after his ambush by the Foot Clan. He fought alongside his brothers against The Shredder in the climatic battle and was the only one of the four to actually injure The Shredder, but, like his brothers, could not defeat him. Due to the focus on Raphael in the film's plot, Leonardo's personality was rarely explored and his leader position in the team took a back seat. Leonardo was portrayed by David Forman and voiced by Brian Tochi.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, Leonardo was much more prominent and his leader position was brought to focus. He is seen on many occasions bickering with Raphael as their sibling rivalry begins to become much more serious. He, like his brothers, was astonished at the return of the Foot but he found that their current homelessness due to their last battle was a more pressing issue and soon he convinced his brothers that they needed to move. Leonardo is once again sensitive, caring, and humorous in this adaption but he now appears much more bossy and controlling.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, after traveling back in time to feudal Japan, Leonardo leads his brothers to help a village in trouble from the villainous weapons trader, Walker, and to return home.
In TMNT, Leo was sent away by Master Splinter to hone his skills in becoming a more efficient leader after Shredder's defeat. April finds him in Central America and while he was hesitant to return to New York City, he does at the right time to take on a new force of evil.
His relationship with Raphael is strained due to Raphael feeling abandoned by Leo as well as feeling less appreciated by Splinter. Leonardo's vision of the world is perhaps wider than Raphael's. In the first movie prequel comic, Leo becomes angry with Raphael for trying to leave them in order to save a man from being mugged because there are four heavily armed Triceratons in the sewers who could cause devastation to the city. He becomes further angered when Raphael deserts them mid-battle to help an old man. This conflict suggests that the two brothers operate on different levels of morality, though neither is necessarily wrong. Raphael states in the comic that he was tired of waiting for disaster to fall on his family and tired of fighting aliens while people in their own neighborhood are being mugged and murdered. Leonardo, on the other hand, believes that the world of men is the responsibility of the police, while Utroms and Triceratons are their domain… that they should fight only when there is no one else to solve the problem. This also engages Leo in a contradiction when he stays in Central America, using violence to fight local lawlessness and effectively deserting his brothers because he believes as Raph believes, that others need him more. Such parallels suggest that the two brothers are experiencing the same dedication to justice but in a different mentality, albeit in very different locales and using different tactics. In fact, when Leo tracks down and scolds the Nightwatcher (not knowing that he is Raphael), he remarks that he is well aware of the Nightwatcher's good intentions but cannot simply approve of the latter's methods.
Raphael challenges Leonardo after arguing of their own individual sense of justice and the reasons for their actions. Leonardo discovers that Raphael is the Nightwatcher and the two engage in an emotional fight. Raph almost kills Leo out of anger and then retreats due to shame and his brother's deep and confused stare. Leo is captured by the War Generals and the Foot Clan but is rescued by his family later before the final battle where Leonardo and Raphael finally resolve their differences, Raph accepting Leo as their leader while Leonardo confesses to needing Raphael. Leonardo is voiced by James Arnold Taylor in this film.
Leonardo is set to re-appear in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, directed by Jonathan Liebesman and produced by Michael Bay. It is unknown exactly how he will be portrayed, but presumably he will be like his Mirage counterpart. Actor Pete Ploszek has been cast Leonardo.
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In the video games, Leonardo is the first turtle of choice. He is popular especially for beginner players of the TMNT games. Leonardo is portrayed as well-balanced, having, in all areas, strong but not extreme abilities and no glaring weaknesses. His range is rather long, but not as long as Donatello's; however, Leonardo can usually inflict more damage. In the Tournament Fighters games, his moves are the closest to a Ryu/Ken archetype from the Street Fighter franchise. He appears in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up as a playable character, with Michael Sinterniklaas reprising the role.
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