Rocksteady and Bebop weren’t part of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books. Instead, they were created for the animated cartoon by co-creator Peter Laird in a deal with toymaker Playmates. The toy company wanted more mutants they could market as action figures, so Laird designed the two new characters with backstories and origins written by David Wise. Their creation as animation originals mirrors that of Harley Quinn, who made her debut in the animated Batman series, instead of being a comic book native character.
Over the years, the duo of Bebop and Rocksteady would go on to become fan favorite Ninja Turtles characters, and would feature prominently into western pop-culture. They also made their live action feature film debut in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows.
Named after a style of jazz, and a style of Jamaican music predating reggae, respectively, Bebop and Rocksteady were introduced as human street gang members in New York City. As humans, they did some hired muscle work for Shredder. One day, they were tasked with stopping reporter April O’Neil, who was trying to shine a light on NYC’s criminal underworld. Rocksteady and Bebop unfortunately ran into the Ninja Turtles and were soundly defeated.
After this encounter, Bebop and Rocksteady were eager to have their revenge against the Turtles, volunteering for Shredder’s experiments to create mutant super warriors. Unfortunately Bebop and Rocksteady were unaware that Shredder’s mutagen experiment would turn them into animal hybrids. Bebop was transformed into a mutated warthog hybrid, while Rocksteady became a humanoid rhinoceros.
With their new animal powers, Bebop and Rocksteady looked forward to getting their revenge on the Turtles. Unfortunately, they were still the same incompetent street thugs as they were before, and their strength helped them very little against the Turtles.
The duo were noticeably absent from the 2003, Saturday morning cartoon revival of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Instead, the show featured several visual gags and references to Bebop and Rocksteady, but the two never made an official appearance in the show. The show did feature however new characters named Gen as a humanoid rhino, and Kojima, a humanoid warthog. They are different characters altogether from Bebop and Rocksteady.
2012 CGI Cartoon
The two make an official return in the 2012, CGI version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Voiced by none other than J.B. Smoove and Fred Tatasciore, Bebop and Rocksteady were given all new backgrounds and origin stories. Rather than a pair of street thugs, Rocksteady here is originally a man named Ivan Steranko, a Russian arms dealer who wields weapons emblazoned with the Soviet sickle and hammer. Likewise, Bebop is now previously Anton Zeck, a professional thief who uses high-tech gadgets to steal valuable artifacts for Steranko.
The two don’t officially become the animal hybrids until after Kraan takes over New York City, and the two become so desperate to escape, they agree to team up with Shredder. Unfortunately the two had previously crossed paths with Shredder, when they attempted to steal some of his mythical artifacts. Once this revelation came to light, Shredder had the two mutated in his lab out of revenge. Since then, they’ve become employed by Shredder and the Foot Clan, occasionally attacking the Turtles independent from Shredder’s plans.
Bebop and Rocksteady were then planned to make appearances in the animated film, Turtles Forever as well as the 2007 animated film. However, their appearances in both resulted in nothing more than cameos. In regards to the latter, the two didn’t even make an appearance, instead becoming lyrics in the film’s featured song “Shell Shock” by the band Gym Class Heroes.
Lastly, they were planned to make appearance in the 2014, Michael Bay produced feature film, but once again, were removed from the final draft of the film.
Out of the Shadows
Finally, after years of absence, Bebop and Rocksteady made their feature film debut in the sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. The two were portrayed by Gary Anthony Williams and WWE wrestler Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly as Bebop and Rocksteady respectively. Their origin stories are pretty similar to the 1987 cartoon, where the two are career criminals working directly under Shredder before being selected for his mutant experiments.
Aside from making regular appearances in the comics, the two have also appeared in Archie’s Sonic Universe comic series as crossover cameos. The two appeared in issue 29 as criminals imprisoned in jail. In addition, the two have made regular appearances in nearly every Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle video game, since the first NES game in 1989 all the way to a 3DS game in 2014.
And of course, there are the numerous action figures based on the two characters, for which they were originally created for in the first place.
What began as a typical 1980s cash-grab for toymakers, Bebop and Rocksteady quickly became pop-culture icons, whose style and design evokes the immortal 80s, street gang looks. The two are wildly popular among Ninja Turtles fans, and there is a sense that the two will be pop-cultural waypoints whenever the discussion of either the Ninja Turtles or the 80s occur.