How A TMNT Villain (Maybe) Became A Nintendo Boss
Here at Cracked, we like to deal with world-changing, philosophical questions. What is the meaning of life? Is death the end? What's the deal with Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? As you can probably tell from the title of this article, one of these questions is far more important than the others.
The saga of the screeching brain that lives in the stomach of an obese bald robot in a Speedo is a mysterious one. But some answers can be found in what seems to be a totally different series in a completely different medium: Metroid. So strap on your Varia Suit and order a bizarrely topped pizza, folks. Here's why Krang and Mother Brain, the space-pirate-controlling asshole from Metroid, are the same character.
Both Are Interstellar Crime Bosses Who Happen To Be Brains In Jars
As far as social profiles go, it's pretty rare to be a brain living in a jar, and Krang and Mother Brain are definitely in the 99th percentile on the grand scale of brain-in-jar success. This is true not only in real life but also in the universes of Metroid and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In the Metroid franchise, we see exactly one sentient brain in a jar: the Mother Brain. In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe, we also see exactly one sentient brain in a jar: Krang. This is despite the fact that both franchises are up to their little turtle headbands in technology, to the point where you can't even own a farm without worrying about killer mutant cyber-cows.
It's true that, in TMNT, the antagonist is called Krang, while in the Metroid games, the antagonist is called Mother Brain, but there is a good reason for this. "Mother Brain" is a code name -- one that law enforcement uses to refer to him. I say "him," but remember, we're talking about brains in jars. In other words, "Mother Brain" is a criminal moniker, just like "The Zodiac Killer" or "Mike Huckabee."
Its greatest weapon is the ability to ponder things.
There are no occasions in the Metroid franchise where space pirates use the phrase "Mother Brain." A legitimate name exists only in the mouths of Krang's enemies, specifically the ones hunting him all the way over in Dimension X. Speaking of which ...
The Asteroid In Dimension X Is Just Like Planet Zebes
Midway through the first animated TMNT series, Krang and Shredder are banished to an asteroid in Dimension X. There, they bicker over various revenge schemes, presumably while Krang paced about the Technodrome smoking cigars, as Shredder followed him with an ashtray.
I think Public Enemy did a song about it in the early '90s.
Right away, we see that the Technodrome -- an interconnecting network of metal pipes and rooms -- is within walking distance of an active volcano, which, in turn, is surrounded by a jungle next to a sea. What the writers of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles thought was a fantastical otherworld is actually just a small replica of south Florida.
Now, if we take a look at maps of Zebes (the planet where you Metroid the crap out of Metroids), we find the same basic structure: Tourian, an interconnected network of metal pipes and rooms that is within walking distance of Norfair, an actively volcanic area. Overlapping with both is Brinstar, a jungle, and in the SNES version, Brinstar also borders Maridia, a sea.
Video game geography is weird.
So the biomes on Zebes are extremely close together, just like the ones on Krang's asteroid, and they both have the same type of arrangement. Here, look at this very short video for a comparison:
Now, strictly speaking, Krang's base is an asteroid, while Zebes is a planet. However, the difference between planets and asteroids is one of degrees. It's determined by size, by how many similarly sized objects are close to it, and by whatever we've decided "dwarf planet" means, among other things -- Ceres, a real-life borderline case, has been alternatively categorized as a planet and an asteroid for the last two centuries, for precisely this reason. So despite being called an "asteroid base," Krang's hideout can still orbit Zebes' sun, have Zebes' atmosphere, and, well, be Zebes.
Of course, you might be wondering about the inhabitants of these places. What kinds of lifeforms can thrive on planets that seem to be actively trying to kill everything that comes near them?
They Have The Same Henchmen
The Mother Brain's henchmen have one of the coolest titles ever: SPACE PIRATES. It combines the ruthlessness and danger of pirates with the "Oh shiiiiiiiiiit!" of space. Even more badass than their name, however, is their appearance: They're basically gigantic praying mantises who can shoot lasers.
They also excel at climbing walls and eating their mates.
Now, I know what you're thinking. "Krang's henchmen are rock monsters, which don't exist in Metroid, just as Mother Brain's space pirates don't exist in Dimension X!" Well, sir, madam, or angered space pirate, I'm afraid you're wrong on both counts.
First of all, Krang does have a set of swashbuckling bug-people to do his dirty work. They're called alien hunters, and they should look extremely familiar to any Metroid veteran. Take a gander at Buzzrok here:
The packaging presents them as "Alien Hunters," which doesn't exactly hurt the theory.
Just like Mother Brain, Krang has an army of space-faring, laser-powered mantis creatures. We don't see them much in the cartoons, but that just means he isn't in the habit of sending them to Earth or inviting them to meetings with the Shred-man. They have more important things to do, like guard Metroids. Here's another video, for comparison:
As for the rock soldiers, well, there's an explanation for that too. You see, in Metroid Prime, we discover that it's quite easy for the space pirates to make rock monsters. All they need is energy. Thardus, the rock monster boss from Phendrana Drifts, is created when space pirates mix Phazon Energy with a bunch of rocks.
So we know that Phazon (a crazy, magnetic energy source/organism) is needed to create Thardus, and we also know that Phazon does not exist on Zebes (the Metroid planet). However, this doesn't mean that smaller rock monsters could not be created with similar methods, using similar amounts of Metroid energy.
This one was created with kitty litter and a Red Bull.
What I'm saying is that, in the Metroid-verse, people can make rock monsters with energy, and the Mother Brain just so happens to have a ton of energy from farming the game's eponymous space pests. So it would stand to reason that he has access to disposable rock monsters.
Rock monsters are disposable, so Mother Brain can hand them out to Shredder, who sends them out to chase Neutrinos, or whatever. If your job opening requires "Is able to attack in a straightforward pattern and is a rock monster," a rock monster is a fantastic fit. And in the TMNT universe, that's a requirement in every job opening.
Pretty sure there's a whole Metallica album about this.
Space pirates, who have been working with Krang from the very beginning, however, get the important job of stealing Metroids, guarding Metroids, and being slaughtered by the thousands when Samus comes along. That's why their presence in the TMNT franchise is scarcer than power-bombs in Maridia. Every minute, an average of six space pirates are evaporated. If you have a friend who wants to be a space pirate, pass this message along. Help your community.
So Krang and Mother Brain have the same rare profile, live in very similar places, and use the same henchmen. If they're the same criminal mastermind, that would also explain why ...
The Turtles' First Enemies Use Ridley's Image As A Gang Logo
If Krang and Mother Brain are the same being, this means the Mother Brain has been involved in crime here on Earth as well as in Zebes' galaxy, for a while. Surely there should be evidence of that fact, right? Well, there is.
Mother Brain's right-hand man is Ridley, an evil purple space dragon who spits fireballs and was born to star in a gritty Barney reboot.
"I crush you; you crush me; we are pirate fam-i-ly ..."
When Mother Brain's away, Ridley's in charge. So when Mother Brain opens a portal to Earth, Ridley would be the first one sent out to explore it, and the first to start bossing around New York street gangs before Shredder shows up from Japan to do the same. Now, with that in mind, can you guess who the very first TMNT antagonists were?
Before the Foot Clan, the Ninja Turtles squared off against The Purple Dragons. Does that graffiti below look familiar? It should: It's Ridley's profile. Plus, "Purple Dragons" is an odd name for a street gang, isn't it? While dragons are undeniably badass, it seems odd to water-down their badassery with such a silly prefix. That would be like calling your team "The Chartreuse Sharks" or "The Mauve Demons." It's something you call your gang when your part in the criminal underworld is to be beaten up by other gangs when they need to let off some steam.
Still better than "The Periwinkle Bullfrogs."
However, if we insert our "Krang is Mother Brain" hypothesis, things start to make more sense. The Purple Dragons are called that because they're taking orders from a literal fucking purple dragon (from space!), and that's also why their gang insignia looks like Ridley's profile.
But the really crazy part? That's not the only interaction between the two universes. It gets much better ...
Splinter Fought Ridley Before, And So Have The Turtles
In the insane TMNT series from 2003, it's revealed that, after his transformation, Splinter traveled to an inter-dimensional battle arena, called the Battle Nexus, where he reigned as champion. The previous champion, whose place Splinter eventually usurped, was a space-faring red-violet dragon called Drako. Here he is, capturing the Turtles' time-traveling princess friend, Renet ...
It's like the dragons from Game Of Thrones, except interesting.
Now, here he is again, facing Splinter in the TMNT equivalent of Fight Club:
Turned out that Splinter was the Turtles the whole time.
Say, does that dragon-shaped badass look familiar? If not, let's just take a look at the box art for the original release of Super Metroid:
Patience. We'll get to the whole "red" part ... right now.
Not only are the dragons really similar -- differing only by the style in which they are drawn -- there's also an explanation for why Ridley, from whose purple color a New York street gang takes its name, is red. Don't worry, it's not that complicated: The explanation is that Ridley changes color, from purple to red, when injured. And the Ridley on the box is about two seconds away from covering Samus with his guts.
You'd blush too if your ass was kicked this quickly.
According to the series, "Drako" (really Ridley's professional wrestling name, like "Macho Man" or " Mr. Ass") plotted to get revenge against Splinter for stealing his title. When Splinter returns, he has the Turtles with him, and they eventually confront Ridley together.
This brief encounter transforms Drako into a more powerful creature called Ultimate Drako, who brawls with our half-shelled heroes for a handful of TMNT episodes at the end of the third season, eventually being defeated by a character named Lord Simultaneous (yes, that's accurate).
Those transformations are extremely important, because in the Metroid-verse, Ridley constantly transforms himself, reemerging in various forms after being defeated:
Altogether, across every Metroid game, we've seen not only Ridley but Meta Ridley, Omega Ridley, Mecha Ridley, and Neo Ridley. Dude has more forms than the IRS. The fact that Drako transforms into Ultimate Drako keeps with Ridley's distinctive "never give up, even after you've exploded" style of villainy.
So to get a clearer idea of what's going on, let's put all of this together in a timeline. Ridley and Mother Brain are Drako and Krang, respectively. Ridley is out space-pirating and winning Battle Nexus championships, Krang gets his help to steal Metroids, and life is generally good for the two of them.
Then Splinter comes along and takes the Battle Nexus championship from Ridley. Ridley, enraged, battles Splinter. In the process, he discovers New York and founds The Purple Dragons. Shredder takes Ridley's place as the underling in charge of Earth's invasion. Eventually, years later, after the Turtles cease to be a threat (either because they die nobly in battle or are trapped in someone's massive terrarium), Samus Aran storms Krang's Zebesian base, blows it up, and then comes back a second time to blow up the whole damn planet.
So, every time you play Metroid or Super Metroid, you're on a mission to finish what the Ninja Turtles started. And every time you watch a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, you're seeing a prequel to Metroid. Enjoy.
Jason Bowers is an adjunct professor of philosophy at Wake Forest University. In his spare time, he makes academic philosophy videos for YouTube.
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