History of Bebop and Rocksteady
Bebop and Rocksteady are two of the most memorable supporting characters from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons. While they’ve infrequently appeared outside of the original show, they’re still beloved by fans. Their history is interesting, both in and out of the TMNT universe.
These characters came into being not because of the comics or cartoon but rather because of a toy licensing deal. Playmates asked Peter Laird to design more characters for the toy line, and Laird came up with the general look of the characters. It would be up to the writers of the cartoon to give them names, backstories and personalities.
1987: The Cartoon Originals
Rocksteady and Bebop were a major part of the original TMNT show, both as Shredder‘s muscle and as comic relief. In this version of continuity, they were a pair of incompetent gang members who agreed to be mutated into their beastly forms in order to get revenge on the Turtles. The two were brainless and incompetent time and time again, somehow becoming beloved members of the cast at the same time.
The Cameo Years
It took quite some time for the pair of mutated gangsters to make another appearance after the 1987 cartoon came to an end. While they were beloved characters, they were also a bit too silly for the tone that the new shows were attempting to adopt. As such, they were largely relegated to the role of background cameos.
From 2003 on, characters who were very similar to the pair would appear in the various cartoons. Sometimes, it would be a quick cameo. Other times, the characters were replaced with look-alikes. The real characters, though, would have to wait to be returned to continuity.
2012: The Comeback
2012’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brought with it a new version of Bebop and Rocksteady. Instead of being cast as incompetent gang members, the two were successful – and unrelated – criminals in their own right. Rocksteady was originally Ivan Steranko, a Russian arms dealer. Bebop was Anton Zeck, a professional thief. Eventually, the two would be mutated into their more familiar forms.
This version of the duo worked for a number of the Turtles’ antagonists, and they were far more competent than their original versions. They were also far more interested in their own self-preservation, abandoning the Foot Clan when they realized they were in over their heads.
Comics and Beyond
Outside of the cartoons, Bebop and Rocksteady have had a little more luck. They’ve been featured in comics from both Archie and IDW with much of the same characterization they had in the original cartoons. The characters are also often featured as antagonists or side characters in the numerous TMNT video games, usually as stage bosses or mini-bosses.
After decades of ups and downs, the characters finally made an appearance on film as the antagonists of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. Though their backstories were slightly different, they were heavily inspired by the cartoon versions of the characters.