Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (various cartoons, comic books, and video games 1987-now)
Here is a character with a commonly misunderstood background. If you grew up watching the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon without reading Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original Mirage Comics, you’d probably think that Krang, the brain-like alien from Dimension X, has always been around in the franchise’s mythos. If you watched the TMNT cartoon series that aired in 2003, you’d think Krang was an Utrom, a race of brain-like aliens that became allies to the Turtles. If you are a kid and watching the new Nickelodeon TMNT series that began in 2012, you’d probably think I was spelling Krang wrong and the “Kraang” are a race of brain-like aliens from Dimension X that are enemies of the Turtles. If you’ve only watched any or all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies without really caring too much about TMNT in the first place, you’re probably thinking “Who the hell is Krang?” Well I have some answers for you! (No, No, No, and GTFO).
Okay, so Krang started off as a talking brain from Dimension X in the 1987 cartoon series. That was his first appearance, not the Mirage comics AKA the source of the TMNT. Although the original comics featured aliens that looked exactly like him piloting humanoid android bodies (exactly like him), Krang was mostly unrelated to Mirage’s Utroms but I will get back to that. While the 1987 cartoon was infinitely childish and downright moronic (80’s cartoon style!) it’s what made the TMNT franchise BOOM in success, so it holds a lot of weight in the fans eyes regardless. That being said, this Krang was established as a LIZARD-LIKE warlord of an army of rock soldiers from Dimension X. For whatever reason, “Lizard Krang” was banished from his home dimension into “ours” with his mobile battle station, the Technodrome, and lost his body in the process. Luckily for him, lizard warlords from Dimension X have the anatomical capability to speak, breathe, see, hear, eat, and operate machinery with just their face-brains (I guess). During his time on Earth, he allied himself with the Foot Clan (namely Shredder) and they shared their resources in hopes to respectfully help each other conquer both of their own dimensions. It’s silly that a ninja could just find a banished alien warlord and make an army of robots, mutants, and rock soldiers… but it’s badass (if not in practice, in theory). Also I have no idea why this cartoon would purposefully stray from Krang being an Utrom to the point of making him a lizard creature as his background while good source material was available, but it happened.
Shredder and Krang were notoriously bad partners in this series as they constantly bickered with one another in a comical fashion. Where the Shredder had long standing rivalry with the Turtles, Krang only thought of them as nuisances to get rid of and pretty much only cared to conquer Dimension X. It took five episodes of constant begging on Krang’s part for Shredder to finally build him a mechanical body of his design in which he could operate from the abdomen area (like the UTROMS!). Although this body was seriously goofy looking it proved to be just as threatening to the Turtles as Shredder’s fighting skills and mutant/robot army. It had many shape-altering/weaponizing functions (mostly in the arms), It could fly, grow to massive proportions (when it had a molecular control chip installed), and many other robot-like things you would expect. While he was never portrayed as “scary” or menacing in this children’s show, he was definitely creepy (because he was a bulbous veiny talking brain with a squiggly high pitched voice that sunk uncontrollably low at times… AKA incredible voice-acting).
While Krang did not officially return in the much more Mirage Comics-oriented cartoon in 2003, the Utroms were finally established beyond the comics. *SPOILER ALERT* (seriously this series was kinda good, try watching it as a whole). These inherently GOOD Utroms were aliens who had crash landed on Earth in feudal Japan many years ago largely due to an Utrom criminal, Ch’rell, tampering with the ship after escaping confinement. As the years pass, Ch’rell adopts the persona of Oroku Saki AKA the Shredder, learns ninjistsu while operating his humanoid armor, and amasses the Foot Clan as his loyal followers. That’s right. The Shredder in the 2003 cartoon was predominately an Utrom/Krang/brain-thing… Kinda bizarre but this “Utrom Shredder” was a merciless killer who destroyed the Turtles lives time and time again. The only reason I’m talking about Shredder during Krang’s highlight time is because in a way, the writers of the 2003 series obviously found a way to combine aspects of both Shredder and Krang into one super evil character and it worked gloriously. Some people hate Utrom Shredder, I say he’s awesome. Once the Utrom’s got ahold of Ch’rell, a trial was conducted finding him guilty of committing near genocide on at least two different alien worlds prior to crashing to Earth.
After that intense upgrade, Krang “downgraded” to a new low during the 2013 Nickelodeon TMNT cartoon by becoming not one character but a new alien race called the Kraang (which completely ignores the character gold that is Krang and the Utroms). I have not enjoyed this cheap monotone retro sci-fi interpretation so I will skip talking about it altogether in order to highlight my favorite version of Krang. The newest official comic book continuity of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles under IDW publishing has reestablished Krang as his own character while making him part of the Utrom race (See? That wasn’t so hard! Tons of confusion erased with that minor detail change). Unlike the super smart Krang from the 80’s, “General Krang” from IDW is a military tyrant bent on enslaving other worlds and commanding scientists to build his army and create fun destructive technology for him. That means instead of engineering space-age technology himself he could scare someone shitless into building it for him through his iron will and commanding presence. This Krang was the son of the former ruler of planet Utrominon, Quannin, a vicious dictator (and father) who damned the planet to destruction and left the Utrom race near extinct. After Quannin’s death, Krang made it his purpose to rebuild the Utrom Empire and fix his crazed fathers mistake while his people remained in stasis. After years spent ravaging different planets he conducted a war for slaves on the planet Neutrino while employing Baxter Stockman on Earth to find a means of developing expendable mutant soldiers.
When the front on Neutrino failed, Krang focused his efforts on building the Technodrome on Earth, which in this context acted as a planetary terraformer that he would use to wipe out the human race and make Earth habitable for his remaining people. IDW’s Krang took a lot of “take no prisoners” pages from 2003’s Utrom Shredder while retaining the likeness of the 80’s Krang to a degree (but WAY more menacing and practical). So why is Krang such an awesome villain? You can’t really go wrong with a creepy-ass sadistic brain alien controlling an Iron Man-like suit of armor packing an arsenal of heavy weaponry. On top of that, he leads soldiers made of stone and rock. That’s an army of Things from the Fantastic Four with lazer guns. It’s also stunning to see such a small creature wreak so much havoc on so many planets (the 2003 Ch’rell and the IDW version especially. They have the blood of multiple planets on their… tentacles). Then just look at the Technodrome and all of it’s glory… That’s his house for goodness sake!