A human-born mutant is a human who has become a mutant. This is in contrast to animal-born mutants who were born as ordinary animals who later became mutants. The term has relevance in the IDW version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because it usually implies a fundamental difference in how the mutation was experienced and adapted to, as well as the question of what choice a mutant had in their mutation.
Some incarnations of TMNT have no human-born mutants as a general rule.
Mirage and Palladium
In the official continuity of Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Mirage Studios, mutants of any kind are intentionally written as rare, and human-born mutants are generally nonexistent.
This lack of human-born mutants extends to the universe of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness by Palladium Books, where there are many animal-born mutant characters, but human-born mutants are still relatively nonexistent. The Palladium universe's post-apocalyptic future Earth is mostly inhabited by animal-born mutants and their descendants, but the few humans who survive are still non-mutants.
In the IDW continuity, whether a mutant was born a human or born an animal is relevant to the cultural attitudes of the Mighty Mutanimals. Thus far almost all of its mutant members—Old Hob, Slash, Pete, Mondo Gecko, Herman, Seymour Gutz, Ray and Sally Pride—were born as animals and never had a choice in being mutated. Hob, Slash, Seymour, Ray and Sally in particular have traumatic post-mutation pasts as laboratory experiments against their will, while Pete, Mondo and Herman were mutated by other mutants, respected as individuals, and have experienced much more dignity overall. Attitudes vary among the group, but Hob in particular has a strong prejudice against human-born mutants because they are culturally humans, often mutated willingly, and usually didn't experience the indignity of being treated like a lab animal long after their mutation.
In Universe issue 11, Ray and Sally are mobilized to investigate sightings of a "Jersey devil" in the New Jersey wilderness, where they encounter Dreadmon, a human-born mutant jackal. Their meeting is cordial, and they share their backgrounds and histories, and more of Ray and Sally's pasts as animal-born mutant laboratory specimens comes to light. But when Dreadmon reveals that he was born a human who became a mutant by free will, Ray quickly sours to him because Ray was never given a choice. Ray admits to sharing some of Hob's prejudice against human-born mutants. But Sally insists it doesn't matter, because they are all mutants, and regardless of where they came from, they have a shared plight. Meanwhile, Dreadmon is being hunted by a Null Group paramilitary team consisting of Colonel Fist, Deadaim, Lynch and Waster, on orders to bring the jackal back alive. The calculus of a "human-born mutant" is further complicated by the revelation that this team are not only all human-born mutants themselves, but have equipment that allows them to shift between normal human and their mutant versions at will by controlling the levels of mutagen in their biology. Dreadmon is offered a job as part of their team along with the chance to also have access to this technology and have human skin again, but Dreadmon turns down the offer when their loyalty pledge requires executing Sally. Ray, Sally and Dreadmon escape together, but Dreadmon still refuses to join the Mutanimals. Yet unlike the Mutanimals' antagonistic encounter with Bebop and Rocksteady, the animal-born Ray and Sally part with the human-born Dreadmon on respectful terms.
In TMNT: Bebop & Rocksteady Hit the Road, Earth Protection Force Special Agent Ravenwood was originally a human who co-founded the original EPF along with John Bishop's father. She subsequently became a human-born mutant arising from failed experimentation with the Olympian augment; since she is human-born, she does not consider herself a mutant, as she thinks of mutants as necessarily having been animal-born. For most of the mini-series, she mistakenly believes that Bebop and Rocksteady were originally animals mutated against their will, and takes a compassionate approach to trying to apprehend them, including trying to connect with them as a sympathetic voice. When she finally discovers that Bebop and Rocksteady are human-born life-long violent criminals who mutated by choice, Ravenwood's sympathy towards Bebop and Rocksteady not only complete sours, but she also takes the attitude that the two of them are not "real" mutants after all. In the end, her conniving boss John Bishop conspires with T.J. Shevlin to remotely deactivate Bebop and Rocksteady's restraints in the hopes they would murder Ravenwood. She manages to survive, but is defeated and loses most of her body, fleeing with just her detached head. Despite Ravenwood not considering herself a real mutant, Bishop only ever really saw her as another mutant "freak" to be purged.
In City at War, part 6, Hob and Ray devised a plan they kept secret from everyone, even the other Mutanimals. The pair led the Mutanimals into an assault on the public victory gathering of New York City mayor-elect Baxter Stockman, who was also Hob's former boss and torturer at StockGen. As Baxter summoned Flyborgs to whisk himself and his campaign manager April O'Neil to safety, Hob and Ray seized the podium. There, Hob made a speech, proclaiming him as one of the city's mutants who has been marginalized by humans, and vowed that, instead of killing humans, he would make them know the same pain and grief Hob and his friends had known. When Bishop and Hun mobilized on site with two remote-controlled mindless clones of the recently murdered Slash, Hob was disgusted by what Bishop had done, cut his speech short, and threw Ray's mutagen bomb into the crowd of random human pedestrians. The bomb detonated, instantly exposing a large number of humans to mutagen, which immediately triggered their mutations into human-born mutants in the appearance of numerous animal species. Sally, Pete, Mondo, Raphael, Bishop, Hun, and NYPD officers Kara Lewis and Hernandez each watched in horror from otherwise safe distances. In that single act, the number of mutants in the city had drastically increased, and like animal-born mutants, these humans had not been given a choice to mutate.
Given a choice
- Bebop - Given a choice by Oroku Karai.
- Dreadmon - Given a choice by Null Group.
- Gang of Four - Given a choice by Null Group. They use technology that allows them to freely mutate and retromutate at will.
- Arnold Jones a.k.a. Hun - Given a choice by Oroku Saki. Enhanced non-animal mutation. Openly hates other mutants.
- Ravenwood - Given a choice by Wayne Bishop. Exotic non-animal mutation.
- Rocksteady - Given a choice by Oroku Karai.
Not given a choice
- Many random humans at Baxter Stockman's mayoral election victory gathering, not including Baxter himself
Splinter and his sons are an unusual case of being human-reincarnated animal-born mutants, inheriting both the culture of their past human-born lives and the experience of having been mutated lab animals.
TV series and films
In the TV series from 1987 all the way to 2018 and most of the films, both animal-born and human-born mutants are abundant, a circumstance originally (and still) driven by Playmates Toys' desire to create a marketing vehicle for selling many different mutant action figures. But the difference between animal-born and human-born mutants is seldom given any plot relevance except in the effects of retro-mutagen.