April O'Neil May Not Have Been Originally Black—Character Redesign In New 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Movie Spurs Debate On April's Race

April O'Neil's design in Seth Rogen's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" has caused a divide among social media users. April, often depicted as a white woman, will be an African American woman in the upcoming movie. But what was her race originally?

By Nicole Dominique2 min read
April O'Neil
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Seth Rogen's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot has caused a divide among social media users after it showed the redesign of the character Apil O'Neal. April will be black in Mutant Mayhem, though her character was depicted as white in the comics and animation.

The decision to make April black has spurred discussions on "race-swapping." @EthanVanSciver writes, "If it didn't matter how April O'Neil or dozens of other caucasian characters 'looked,' there wouldn't be this deliberate effort to race swap them. Clearly it's mattering to SOMEONE. Leave them alone, present them as is. Or f*ck off."

The redesign has also brought up questions about April's original design. Some users state April O'Neil was originally black. This belief began after TMNT's co-creator – Kevin Eastman – says he named the character after his ex-wife, who was mixed.

An account on Twitter (@EricDJuly) decided to do a deeper dive and shared his findings on Twitter. The images that were often used to "prove" that April was black was an image of the character from the '80s when tight perms were popular. However, there's an explanation for this – in Volume one, No. 4, April goes to a salon for a makeover and opts for a perm.

The comics were originally done in black and white, but the newer versions showed a more tanned April, leading many to believe she was a person of color. Interestingly, Eastman said in the past that his co-creator Pete Laird originally made April Asian in the concept stages, but she was later made into a white woman.

Laird has addressed April's design himself, stating, "It depends on which co-creator of the TMNT you ask. If you ask me, I always saw April O’Neil as white. If you ask Kevin, I suspect he would say – as he has in a number of interviews – that she was of mixed race, much like his former girlfriend (then wife, then ex-wife) April."

When a fan asked Laird on his blog why April was black in Volume 2, he explained that April wasn't meant to be black, and explained why some fans might have seen her that way. "I believe that is the one I colored in Photoshop –  my first such experience with doing that," Laird wrote in 2012. "I've never envisioned April as black, so if she looked like that to you in that story, it might be because of the way the artist drew her, or some failure on my part in the coloring, or just something about the way you perceive it, or some combination of the above. It was certainly not my intention to color her in a way as to make anyone think she was black."

The verdict? If we were to go off of Laird's responses about April, it seems she was originally white in the Mirage comics and was depicted as black in occasional comics throughout the years.

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