The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were tough characters - they could kick in the dark, they could take on multiple enemies, they could remove several Christmas bells off of a doll within a couple of seconds without making a sound, they could even face off against menacing mutant monsters and come out of the brawl all jokey and happy. But, there's one fella they don't dare tangle against.
Splinter never seemed to move very fast, and never seemed to raise his voice that much, but you were always pretty sure that he could hand you your behind on a silver plate if he really wanted to.
He is a martial arts master and father figure for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In all versions of the story, he is a mutant rat, but his origins often vary depending on the version you're reading of watching.
In the 1987 TMNT cartoon hit the television screens and us kids loved it. Splinter used to be a man named Yoshi. Yoshi Hamato was framed by his rival, Oroku Saki (who would eventually turn into the ultimate TMNT baddie, Shredder), for trying to murder their dojo master. Being unable to prove his innocence, he ran away to New York, where he lived as a hermit in its sewers and befriended the rats.
One day, he came across four baby turtles which were accidentally dropped by a boy through a sewer grate. He kept them as pets and treated them like his children - no apologies for how bizarre that all is or how he managed to afford a flight to New York. But later, he found the turtles venturing near broken barrels that were oozing glowing green chemical liquid. As he tried to recover them from danger and attempted to clean them with his bare hands, they were all affected by the chemical. This ooze turned out to the mutagen.
This mutagen transformed any living being into a mutant whose body became mixed with the DNA of any other living being it was last in contact with. The turtles, being last touched by Yoshi Hamato, turned into young human-like turtles. Hamato himself became a rat (he last touched the rats, before he touched the turtles). Since then, Yoshi brought the turtles up, and gave them the names of his favorite Renaissance artists: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo. He also taught them the art of ninjutsu in order to protect themselves and help to confront Shredder and his hordes from the Foot Clan.
Hamato was given the nickname of Splinter by the TMNT, due to his ability to break wooden boards.
In the 1987 animated series, he is portrayed as a brown rat in a pink kimono, wearing white bands on his feet - a translation that is put to good use in the manufacture of the action figure line.
Splinter was released as part of the very first wave of Playmates TMNT action figures, in 1988. His break-away accessory kit featured the cartoon-style walking stick, with a sheath, as well as a bow.
Here's a little trivia to help your through: Splinter's character and name were based off the Marvel Comics' sensei Stick who trained Daredevil and Elektra. On top of that, in the 80's TMNT toyline, Splinter is stated to have an IQ of 475, featured on the back of an action figure blister card.