You won't have to look for them in the sewers, or even at your neighborhood pizza outlet - "The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" are coming to the comic pages of the Deseret News beginning Monday, Dec. 10, with all-new episodes, six days a week.

First the Mutant Turtles were a comic book (1984), then a syndicated cartoon TV show, then a major motion picture (March 1990, rated PG), and now they'll be a newspaper comic strip. Toys featuring the turtles are expected to be hot items for Christmas gifts. The Ninja Turtles have even made a musical album."Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" the comic strip will replace "When I Was Short" in the Deseret News. The new comic is distributed by Creators Syndicate, the Los Angeles company that also handles "Batman," "Crankshaft" and "Burnt Offerings."

The addition of "Turtles" to the Deseret News' comics lineup gives it a strong offering of three comic book-based super-hero features, including "Batman" and "The Amazing Spider-Man."

In connection with the new comic strip, the Deseret News is sponsoring a "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" coloring contest. Deadline for all entries is Dec. 14. Look inside today's Deseret News for the entry form, which will also appear in the paper on Friday, Dec. 7.

The Mutant Turtles were created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984, at first as a kind of "underground comic" that spread by word of mouth before going on to other media.

While mainstream comics like "Batman," "Superman," "Hulk" and "Captain America" had the strength of one of the nation's two largest comic book companies (DC and Marvel Comics) to promote them, the Turtles enjoy no such inherited luxury.

Perhaps it was the unusual name of the comic strip that helped it along. After all, the humorous, four-word name was simply hard to forget.

The Turtles gained a big boost last spring when the movie hit the theaters. The film grossed nearly $150 million, probably the most ever for an independently produced movie. The 90-minute video of the movie has sold more than 8 million copies, was the nation's fourth best-seller and was also ranked as one of the top 11 rental videos in America, as of late November.

According to Deseret News movie critic Chris Hicks, the original plan was to put out a second Ninja Turtles movie by Christmas. However, since the success of the first movie was so overwhelming, the budget for the second film is now more than twice what it was for the first one.

This means that the movie producers are taking special care and more time to make the second movie better - especially in making the special effects more realistic and spectacular.

New Line Cinema is expected to distribute the second Turtles movie, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze," beginning March 22 to 2,500 U.S. theaters.

The TV cartoon version of the Turtles started up in September 1988 as a weekly series. One year later it became a syndicated five-times-a-week hit. The cartoons air locally on KSTU, Ch. 13, at 7:30 weekday mornings. CBS also airs some of these cartoons Saturday mornings at 8.

Historically, most movie and TV properties have not fared well when converted to comic strip form. However, Creators Syndicate President Richard Newcombe believes the Turtles might be an exception, since they originated in a similar format: comic books.

The new Ninja Turtles comic will begin by offering a brief, six-day recounting of the Turtles' origin before launching a brand-new mystery-in-the-sewers tale on Dec. 17.

For those rare people unfamiliar with the origin of the Mutant Turtles, here's a briefing:

Four small, normal turtles hatched in a Manhattan pet store were purchased by a young boy who accidentally dropped the bowl of turtles into the sewer on the way home.

An underground canister leaking a radioactive substance, "Mutagen," transforms the turtles, and their Ninjitsu master Splinter, into what they are today.

The turtles are about age 15 and all carry the names of famous artists: Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo and Michaelangelo. Each also uses a different ancient weapon.

Leonardo is the Turtles' quick-witted leader, Michaelangelo is the rock 'n' roll surf turtle that loves skateboards and lingo, Donatello is the intellectual gadget expert, and Raphael is the true fighter with plenty of internal anger.

(If nothing else, you can tell the four turtles apart by the initials on their belts.)

Pizza comprises the main diet of the Mutant Turtles, and their vocabulary is colorful and inventive. "Cowabunga" is perhaps their most famous expression.

Another main Ninja Turtles character in both the movie and comics is April O'Neil, a TV news investigative reporter. "The Shredder" is the biggest foe of the Turtles and Splinter.

There are slight differences between the movie and comic book/comic strip storylines. In the movie, Splinter was a rat from the start, and the radioactive substance just enlarged his body and enlightened his brain. However, in the comics, Splinter was formerly a human who was mutated by the "Mutagen."

"The movie was very close to what was written" in the comic books, says Roland Williams, manager of the Comics Utah Sugarhouse store. "There were some differences, but none to worry about."

Williams said Mirage Studios started the original Ninja Turtles, though the company is currently taking an unexplained break in printing new stories. That comic appeals to many teens and adults.

He said the Archie Comics Co. started a simpler version of the Turtles, for younger kids, in 1988.

The Turtles craze has hit an all-time high, Williams reports, pointing out that the Turtles' first comic book, published in 1984, currently sells for anywhere between $300 and $600.

As for related toys, a Turtle Claus ($16.95) is only being made in limited numbers and could end up being this holiday season's Cabbage Patch doll in terms of collectability.

Other Turtles toys include a sewer hockey game ($69.95), the movie on video ($19), action figures ($6.95), a second Turtles video game ($54.95) and a Sludgemobile ($6.95).