I’ll warn you: This article is such a deep cut that only extreme fans of the original Ninja Turtles cartoon stand any chance of finishing it. The rest of you should just come back tomorrow.
So, let’s talk about Scrag. An impossible mix of Duckie and Annie Lennox, Scrag wore a pair of those sunglasses Pizza Hut gave away to promote Back to the Future Part II. He ruled.
Scrag was one of my favorite characters on the show, despite being one of the least important. He only appears in four episodes and doesn’t utter a single clear line in any of them.
In fact, Scrag was so minor that he was never even named on the series. “Scrag” is just what fans call him now, thanks to a description in some old Ninja Turtles coloring book.
Nevertheless, there were valid reasons to be invested in this “nothing” character. Scrag’s story was and remains one of most haunting in TMNT history. You just had to pay extra close attention to notice it!
We were introduced to Scrag during the opening sequence of the very first episode, Turtle Tracks. He was a member of Rocksteady’s gang of street punks, back when Rocksteady was still human.
The punks secretly worked for Shredder, who ordered them to kill April O’Neil — whose news reports were hitting a little too close to the Technodrome. Naturally, she was saved by the Ninja Turtles. (That was how April and the Turtles first met!)
Scrag’s debut wasn’t terribly memorable, but we did learn that his weapons of choice included a standard pistol and a comically oversized sledgehammer. We also got a better understanding of his unique fashion sense. Dig that stickman button!
Now let’s jump to the show’s second episode, Enter the Shredder. It’s famous for many reasons, not the least of which being the “birth” of Rocksteady and Bebop in their mutant forms.
Rocksteady and Bebop were willing participants in that experiment, even if they didn’t quite understand what they’d signed up for. Shredder promised them great strength and the chance to get even with the Turtles, but conveniently left out the part about them becoming genetically wed to a rhino and a warthog.
But let’s rewind a bit, here:
When Shredder asked for volunteers, several of the punks were present, and all of them were interested. But for a slight twist of fate, Scrag could’ve been one of the show’s main baddies!
You’ll notice that the punks had their own little ”office” in the Technodrome. Between that and the way Shredder tried to negotiate with them, they came across less like thralls and more like hired goons. This becomes important later.
Now let’s skip ahead to the show’s fourth episode, Hot-Rodding Teenagers from Dimension X.
Frustrated by Rocksteady and Bebop’s ineptitude, Shredder reveals that he’s been experimenting with new-and-improved mutants. The remaining punks are then seen on a monitor. One has been transformed into a mutant lizard. Another is some kind of sad dog.
And then there’s Scrag, who might’ve been unrecognizable as a KICKASS MUTANT BAT if not for his trademark sunglasses.
It seemed like the promise of an expanded role for the rest of Rocksteady’s gang, but things didn’t quite work out that way.
In the show’s fifth episode, Shredder & Splintered, Shredder tries to lure the Turtles into a trap with his Retromutagen Ray Generator — a gun that can undo mutations.
To prove that he isn’t lying, Shredder uses the device on Scrag, who transforms from a scary bat back into a purple-haired punk. (Splinter, seeing this as his only shot at becoming human again, storms the Technodrome.)
Near the end of that same episode, the mutant punks return for what would be their final appearance on the series. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, they’re seen in one of the Technodrome’s prisons, guarded by Foot Soldiers.
Interestingly, Scrag is back in bat-form!
For Scrag and his punk pals, this was a chilling end. Rocksteady and Bebop were at Shredder’s mercy, sure, but they were never treated like expendable lab rats. That these other punks were imprisoned implies that they didn’t have a choice in their mutations… and the fact that they were never mentioned again implies something even worse.
You might theorize that with the construction of Krang’s android body and an increased focus on Dimension X, these secondary punks just got lost in the storyline shuffle.
You might also surmise that since none of them had corresponding action figures, they weren’t ideal characters to shine a spotlight on.
I see things a bit differently. In my mind, there are two options:
1) Shredder’s haphazard experimentations ended up killing them.
2) Krang ordered their disintegration, seeing them as ineffectual allies. (Remember, Krang later tried to kill Baxter Stockman in the same way and for the same reason.)
I’ve been fascinated with Scrag’s arc for as long as I’ve been a Ninja Turtles fan. Keep in mind, almost all of the plot points I’ve just described only barely qualify as plot points. Scrag made scattered appearances in episodes that had nothing to do with him. He was more of a prop than a character.
Hell, just noticing that Scrag even had a storyline involved watching these four episodes so many times that I practically memorized them.
Nobody was supposed to care about you, but I did. I loved your clothes, I loved your Flock of Seagulls hair, and I think you looked great as a bat. You never demonstrated this, but I bet you had a Cockney accent.
In some parallel universe, Playmates made six action figures of you, and I went trick-or-treating with a purple mohawk.
Today is your day. Better late than never?
NOTE: This article focuses only on Scrag’s appearances during the original cartoon. He also had a (fairly illogical) cameo in 2009’s Turtles Forever, but that shouldn’t be considered a part of this continuity.