IS IT possible to exist in the 1990s and be unaware of the Turtles? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that is. The former comic book characters have infiltrated nearly every important aspect of modern life: toys, TV, movies and drugstore candy counters (they're responsible for that revolting green gum in a tube and "pizza candy").

Now taking the next obvious step toward Total World Domination, the Turtles have become a rock band, have released an album called "Coming Out of Our Shells!" -- featuring such amphibian anthems as "Pizza Power" and "Tubin' " -- and are currently touring the country, determined to shake the last remaining post-holiday change out of the pockets of this nation's parents.

The "Coming Out of Our Shells!" tour will be the first exposure to arena rock for many children, attracting an audience several years younger than even your average New Kids on the Block crowd. It arrives Wednesday at Patriot Center, as part of a "40-sewer tour" that three-fingered lead guitarist Michaelangelo promises "totally melts the Ice Capades and stuff like that."

Making up the rest of the band are, of course, Donatello (keyboards), Raphael (saxophone) and Leonardo (bass). The album was produced by Keith Forsey, who's done the honors for Fleetwood Mac, Billy Idol and other Big Names. And who's bigger than the Turtles these days?

"What we tried to do was go: 'OK, what would Donatello dig as a tune, and what would Michaelangelo dig?' " says tot-rock impresario Bob Bejan, who not only supplies the recorded voice of Michaelangelo, but also wrote the songs and co-produced the album and the tour.

"Donatello definitely likes the more synthesized electronic things, being the gearhead that he is, where Michaelangelo is more of a power rocker. And Raph is kind of a street dude -- you know, the rap music and kind of dance-oriented rock. And Leonardo, the leader is straight-ahead. He kind of manages the band, he's like, 'as long as it sells.' He doesn't sing any leads on the album, he sings backup because he's too busy trying to keep everybody under control."

The Turtles' archenemy Shredder and his ninja robots have been following them around on the tour, and are rumored to be planning to disrupt the Turtles' concert, Bejan says. "Shredder hates music -- he has this rap that he loves to do, called 'I Hate Music.' Personally, I think he's just jealous; I think he wishes he were a rock star."

For an adult human, Bejan really seems to understand these guys.

"I think so," he says. "I mean, we've certainly hung out together enough. I wouldn't say my skin's turning green. But I can definitely hang."

But then, Bejan has also worked with the main competition -- the New Kids on the Block. "But that crowd's a little bit older," he says. "New Kids audience is almost exclusively girls. When the Turtles started out, their target audience was almost exclusively boys. But now with the music aspect, the demographic has changed to almost a 50-50 thing. The New Kids haven't acquired any boys as fans at all."

Take that, Jon, Jordan, Joey, Danny & Donnie!

Bejan says "Coming Out of Their Shells!" is "a huge production, like nothing you've ever seen in live family entertainment. We have a lot of pyro, we have {special effects} lights, we have five elevators where the Turtles literally blow out from underneath the sewers and the manhole covers go screaming up to the ceiling."

He promises audience involvement right from the beginning when you walk in. "{Reporter} April O'Neill is on the road with us," Bejan says, "and she's out with a film crew in the lobby when the house opens, and she's interviewing kids and doing concert updates that get shown on big video walls inside the theater. So literally you get interviewed and you can see yourself on TV when you're in the theater. And by the end of the show, the kids are the leading performers, they lead the Turtles taking back the stage from Shredder. It's all up to the kids."

The Turtle team has made an extra effort to make sure parents have fun at the show as well. "Because the biggest problem when you're a parent is fighting that feeling that you lost and you had to take the car pool to the show," says Bejan. "What's neat is standing in the back of the theater, 'cause you definitely see that look on the faces of the parents, you know 'Oh my god, how long is this two hours gonna take.' And by the end, they're up dancing with their kids. Which is so cool!"

Parents may be interested to note that the sets for the $3 million production were designed by Tony winner Eugene Lee ("Sweeney Todd") and lighting and special effects by Jules Fisher ("Beatlemania," "Jesus Christ Superstar"). And reviewers in other cities have noted that violence is minimal and good always triumphs over evil.

The Turtles are already at work on a second album, tentatively titled "Working Through the Food Chain."

"You know, every band's follow-up album after the big tour is the songs they wrote while they were on the road," Bejan laughs, noting that the group plans to be as long-lived as '70s monster makeup rockers Kiss, currently on its 20-something album. "But I doubt the Turtles will ever take their heads off."

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES -- Appearing Wednesday through Sunday at Patriot Center. Call 202/432-0200.