Franchise: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
"Man, I LOVE being a Turtle!!!"
The Heroes in the Half-Shell. The Green Dudes with Attitudes. COWABUNGA, DUDES!!!
Indie comic book turned multimedia empire, starring the eponymous Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
(or TMNT) began as a comic book by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, who formed the idea from a napkin drawing one of them made while eating at a pizzeria. The first story began as a tale in the vein of Frank Miller
, with the four titular ninja battling the Shredder to avenge the murder of Master Splinter's master, Hamato Yoshi. After a fierce battle, they successfully kill him. A surprise hit (often attributed to the unique name), the series continued with applying a Fantasy Kitchen Sink
motif: with time travel, robots, and aliens introduced within the first ten issues. Despite their inauspicious beginnings, the series became so popular that an action figure deal was struck, and an animated series was created to accompany the toyline. The show became one of the most popular animated series of all time, which in turn led to movies and every type of merchandise under the sun, turning TMNT into one of the biggest cash cow franchises
of the mid-eighties/early nineties.
The major incarnations of the franchise are as follows:
- The Mirage Comics (1984-1993, 2001-2010): Stories featuring the original incarnation of the turtles. These are notable for its semi-real time storytelling (stories written after 2001 featured the turtles in their thirties); its lack of a consistent Rogues Gallery; and alternating between "throw-everything-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks" and "heavily focused" approaches to storytelling. This incarnation comprises Volumes 1, 2, and 4 of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book, two volumes of Tales of the TMNT, and a multitude of one-shots and mini-series.
- The first cartoon (1987-1996), with Fred Wolf at the helm: Resemblances to its source material are mostly superficial. The first cartoon featuring the turtles proved even more popular than the comics (and it definitely remains the most well-known TMNT incarnation among the general public), thanks to the distillation/flanderization of the four turtles to easily identifiable character types; the addition of villains Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady; the promotion of the Shredder from one-shot baddie to Arch-Enemy; gleeful breaking of the fourth wall; the addition of food addiction (pizza) and a catch phrase ("Cowabunga," although there were others), and a general comedic bent. The series ended in 1996, after ten seasons, 194 episodes, and one retool which attempted to make the series more dramatic.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (1988/1989-1995/1996): Midway through its run, the original cartoon spawned its own comic book, published by Archie Comics. While it initially limited itself to adapting some of the cartoon stories, it eventually evolved into something as different from the cartoon as the cartoon was from the original comic book. This incarnation of the turtles is generally regarded favorably, with a notable contingent of fans clamoring for inclusion of its characters into future incarnations.
- The original movie trilogy: Debuting in 1990, the first movie combined events from the comic book with the cartoon's humor. It went on to be extremely popular, breaking records for an independent film and even though reviews weren't glowing, praise was given to Jim Henson's Creature Shop for the costumes. The resulting two sequels cost more and made less, started to fall into self-parody and ended the series.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Legend of the Supermutants (1996). An Anime. It is a two-episode OVA which adapts (very freely) the Turtles into Japanese anime format, although they're mainly thinly-veiled ads for Takara's Japanese version of the Turtles toyline. Among the changes made, the turtles have the power to transform into "Super Turtles" for about three minutes (during which they look really manly), have an animal-themed armor each (like in Saint Seiya) and can fuse together to form the "Saint Turtle". Besides that, the bad guys also have transforming powers, and Shredder turns into a Dragon. For further info, visit Wikipedia or just see this video.
Other media franchises
- TMNT Vol. 3 (1996-1999): Published by Image Comics, this series was the official continuation of the Mirage continuity, until it was subsequently ignored by Peter Laird upon the publication of Volume 4. Mostly remembered for mutilating three out of the four turtles, and for a plot featuring a three-way struggle for leadership of the Foot involving Raphael, who had taken on the Shredder identity after finding his armor; Pimiko, the original Shredder's daughter; and Lady Shredder, a ninja of unknown origin dressed in the familiar armor.
- Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (1997-1998): A live-action Saturday morning show by Saban Entertainment (guys behind Power Rangers), aired on Fox Kids in 1998 shortly after the animated series ended. It lasted only one season before going belly-up. The new series added a new character, Venus de Milo, a female turtle with knowledge of the art of Shinobi (and playing the foil to the scientifically-minded Donatello). Many fans were antagonistic to the series, and Peter Laird was even more antagonistic to Venus.
- The second cartoon (2003-2009): Mirage teamed up with 4Kids in order to produce this new cartoon, this time making sure it had a closer resemblance to the comic book it was based on. Nicknamed TMNT 2k3, the series featured faithful adaptations of most of the comic book's stories, contained major story arcs, and straightened up the original patchwork narrative and made it more coherent. Surprisingly for a show produced by someone with 4Kids' pedigree, it has avoided several of the tropes associated with Saturday Morning cartoons, such as Thou Shalt Not Kill and Status Quo Is God. It ended in 2009, after six years, seven seasons, and two retools.
- Turtles Forever, an animated movie crossing over this incarnation of the Turtles with that of the first cartoon, and acting as a celebration of the franchise's 25th anniversary. It also serves as a Grand Finale for both the '03 cartoon and the franchise's pre-Nickelodeon era.
- TMNT (2007): More than a decade after the original movies, the Turtles returned to the big screen with the 2007 release of the fully-CGI TMNT. Made as a tenuous continuation of the original movies, it received respectable reviews for the animation and character storylines, but was criticized for the main plot mysticism, some blurry character motivations (Leonardo in particular), and the marginalization of half of the turtles.
- The IDW Comics (2011-): The first new incarnation of the Turtles following the purchase by Nickelodeon and published by IDW Publishing, it features elements from all previous incarnations before it, as well as heavily revised origins for the familiar characters.
- The third cartoon (2012-): A CG animated series that currently airs on Nickelodeon. The most Animesque take yet, full of Manga Effects and other Japanese visual humor. It's somewhat Younger and Hipper - the Turtles act more like adolescents and several human characters have been aged down - but it still has dark moments.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014): Another reboot of the TMNT film franchise, with Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes serving as the production company. Where the previous live-action films used people in animatronic suits to portray the Turtles, this one uses CGI motion-capture.
: There are also other media franchises of the series, including food tie-ins
(Ninja Turtles cereal, Chef Boyardee TMNT pasta, Ninja Turtles cookies, etc.); a Coming Out of Their Shells
concert tour that first premiered at the Radio City Music Hall (with Donatello on keyboards, Leonardo on bass guitar, Raphael on drums and sax, and Michelangelo on guitar, as the story had a feel similar to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
, with its theme of the power of rock n' roll
literally defeating the enemy, in the form of the Shredder (who only rapped about how he hates music), trying to eliminate all music); and a stage show at the Disney-MGM studios theme park in Orlando, Florida
from 1990 to 1996. There was also a role playing game book
released in 1985 to 2000 based off the original Mirage comics, and a pinball machine
made by Data East
TMNT remains a pop-culture phenomenon to this day.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise has the following tropes:
- Adaptation Distillation: The 4Kids series and the fourth movie. The first movie successfully blends the original comics and cartoon into a coherent whole.
- Adaptation Personality Change: The characters are reinterpreted in every retelling, especially Michelangelo and Raphael. They typically fit the same archetype, but express it in different ways.
- All were extremely flanderized in the 1987 series, except for Leonardo who was only mildly flanderized. Donatello went from being intellectual to being a Gadgeteer Genius, Michelangelo went from being mostly laidback to being a surfer dude obsessed with pizza, but most egregiously, Raphael went from being dark and violent to being snarky and constantly breaking the fourth wall.
- Michelangelo: Mirage Comics - laidback, 1987 Cartoon - surfer dude, Film Series - jokester, 2003 Cartoon - prankster.
- Raphael: Mirage Comics - violent, 1987 Cartoon - wise cracker, Film - brooding, 2003 Cartoon gruff.
- Adaptation Species Change:
- Shredder was changed to a Utrom (alien brain in a robot suit) in the 2003 series.
- Splinter is always depicted as a mutant rat, but sometimes (like in the cartoon), he started as a human. Other times (like in the 1990s film), he started as a pet rat.
- Aerith and Bob: When the turtles are addressed by their nicknames, Leo, Don/Donnie, and Mikey/Mike are all fairly common, and then you have Raphael's nickname, Raph.
- Animal Nemesis: The feud between Oroku Nagi and Hamato Yoshi is taken up by Nagi's brother and Yoshi's pet rat, and the Turtles themselves when they mutate.
- Animal Superheroes: And one example who got many follow-ups.
- Another Dimension: A whole lot of them, most notably Dimension X in two continuities.
- The Anticipator: Master Splinter usually plays this role in the show, as he is very wise and skilled. And a ninja, of course.
- Art Initiates Life: Kirby's crystal allowed him to do this.
- The Artifact: As the series became more kid-friendly it became fairly impossible to show Leonardo and Raphael slicing and dicing their non-robotic foes, as that would be bloody and gruesome. However, their weapons of katanas and sais are so iconic to them that they could never get rid of them. Thus more often than not, and particularly in the movies (which feature no robots) they'll just be seen fighting with their bare hands - their more effective weapons strapped to them untouched.
- Reimagining the Artifact: Which might be the reason why few of the foes (Foot Clan Ninjas e.g) were turned robotic midway in the animated series just to compensate for the lack thereof.
- The title itself became this as the Turtles continued to age in the comics well into their thirties.
- Avenging the Villain: The basis of the Foot's vendetta against the turtles, after The Shredder's death in the comic books. In the 4Kids cartoon, this becomes Karai's motivation during the fourth season, after The Shredder (here her adoptive father) is exiled to an icy asteroid.
- Awesome McCoolname: Renaissance Artists and Japanese names and Irish names and Athletes and Violent Verbs and Notorious Conquerors, oh my! Wait; I think I missed some!
- Badass Bookworm: Donatello, the one who builds machines.
- Badass Pacifist: Donatello is known as the least violent of the four turtles and would rather use his intellect to solve conflict than his fighting skills. However, he is VERY competent in his fighting when it is needed.
- Badbutt: Nearly as iconic to the heroes as Totally Radical is their application of Unusual Euphemism, at least in the 1987 series. "What the Shell" is one of the most uttered phrases in the 2003 series; at least as often as "Cowabunga" in the 1987 series.
- Beauty to Beast: April when turned into a fish mutant.
- Beneath the Earth: The Turtles have lived in sewers and on subway platforms from time to time.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Let's just say that you would want to stay on the good side of Michelangelo & Donatello.
- Big Applesauce: New York is the primary location for all incarnations.
- Big Bad: Although the different incarnations may have their own individual Big Bads, The Shredder is the most traditional and consistent foe the turtles come across.
- Big Brother Instinct: The turtles all fall under this trope at one time or another, in all the various incarnations. It has also applied to Casey and April.
- Blade Below the Shoulder: The Shredder
- Bodyguarding a Badass: Shredder's Elite Guard.
- Canon Foreigner: Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady, Venus de Milo, Tatsu, Tokka, Rahzar and many more.
- Canon Immigrant:
- Archie Comics to Mirage: Cudley the Cowlick
- 4Kids Cartoon to Mirage: Foot Mystics, The Battle Nexus, Hun and Bishop,Shredder's armor.
- First Film to Mirage: Charles Pennington
- Any of them to IDW Comics: If they've made a significant impact on any version of the Turtles, odds are they're in it.
- Fred Wolf series: "Cowabunga!" "Turtle power!"
- Films: "God, I love being a turtle!!
- 4Kids series: "It's ninja time!" (Fast Forward only) "Goongala!" (Casey) "None of you will leave here alive!" (The Shredder), "Oh, crud." (Hun).
- Nickelodeon series: "Booyakasha!" (Mikey)
- Cephalothorax: Krang, after being stripped of his body when he was banished from Dimension X. Shredder designed and built a humanoid exo-suit for him when they teamed up.
- Character Select Forcing: A few video games, be it due to combat (the original Nintendo Hard game, where Donatello was the only one with a decent range) or abilities (the Game Boy Advance version of Battle Nexus had some crystals accessible only by certain turtles).
- City of Adventure: New York City, as well as Northampton, MA in the Mirage comics and 4Kids 'toon.
- Color-Coded Characters: Since the original comic was in black and white, there wasn't much of this to begin with as each turtle was identified by their Weapon of Choice. Even the special colored issues had the bandana masks they wear all red. The original cartoon gave the turtles different color bandannas (which have since been used in every successive incarnation) and the action figures, different skin colors (ignored until the 2003 cartoon).
- The Archie comic series Lampshaded this with a Truth in Television flashback story about the pre-teenaged Turtles all wearing red headbands and Splinter having difficulty telling them apart until they decide on color coding their masks a la Donald Duck's nephews. This crosses into Only Six Faces.
- The newspaper strip, as it was also in black and white, took a page from the 1987 cartoon and the turtles here have their initials on their belts instead.
- Competitive Balance: In terms of the video games:
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: SUBVERTED of all things! In the First Movie and the 4Kids series, The Foot have got alot of mileage out of sending wave after wave of Mooks after the Turtles (Raphael in the 1990 movie, and Leonardo in the Comics and 4Kids series) and whooping their asses.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: The turtles' way of staying hidden. On the other hand this IS New York, where nobody looks at anybody else, so, fair enough.
- Cosmic Keystone: The dimension of the original Mirage Comics for the Multiverse in "Turtles Forever".
- Most important is Miyamoto Usagi of Usagi Yojimbo, who has appeared in the Mirage comics, the Fred Wolf cartoon and the 4Kids cartoon; the Turtles have also made the occasional appearance in the Usagi Yojimbo comic books.
- And Turtles Forever, a crossover between the 4Kids and Fred Wolf shows. Did we mention the Mirage comics?
- Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue features 1987 Mikey among many other toons.
- The Next Mutation guest starred in the Power Rangers in Space episode "Shell Shocked".note
- The Raving Rabbidsnote in the Smash-Up video game. They immediately became new Scrappies for the TMNT fandom.
- There was a crossover with Planet Racers, another comic created by Peter Laird, in an episode of the 2003 series.
- Because the brainchild of Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa did some of the issues of the original comic series, Cowlorado Kid, Moo Montana and Dakota Dude appeared in some of the Tales of the TMNT issues and made non-speaking roles in an episode in the 2003 cartoon.
- Due to IDW owning the rights for TMNT comics as of 2011, the Turtles have also become recurring characters in IDW's yearly Massive Multiplayer Cross Throughs, having appeared in 2012's Infestation 2 against the Cthulhu Mythos and in 2014's The X-Files: Conspiracy. No, the Turtles don't get to meet Mulder and Scully (though Mulder does get a one-panel cameo), but they do tangle up with Mulder's buddies The Lone Gunmen and the vampires from the X-Files episode "Bad Blood."
- Since it's now a Nickelodeon property, the TMNT have a few appearances in online games with other Nick stars, both cartoon and live-action. Funnily enough, they once again crossover with the Power Rangers and the Rabbids.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Michelangelo, in every incarnation, is the usually the goofball/slacker/fun-loving guy of the group, but when it comes down to having an actual fight....you don't really wanna be on the receiving end.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Repeatedly subverted by Baxter Stockman. In the Mirage comics, after making a large legitimate fortune with his Mouser robots, he then proceeds to use them to commit terrorism for kicks. In the 1980s cartoon, he tried using them legitimately but was rejected by every pest control company in town. In the 4Kids cartoon, he makes a huge legitimate fortune with them, and then starts using them to rob banks simply because he's a greedy bastard.
- Cycle of Revenge: One of the most important themes in the original Mirage books.
- Damsel in Distress: April O'Neil always, though taken Up to Eleven in the first cartoon where the turtles can recognize her by her "mmphing".
- Deadpan Snarker: Being teenagers, all four of them usually do it at some point, but Raphael is the one that's known for it the most. Master Splinter also has his dry humor moments.
- Distaff Counterpart: Venus de Milo, who fit in as an Action Girl and The Chick in Next Mutation since it didn't even feature April as a character.
- Distinctive Appearances: The original comics run had the turtles effectively defined by their Weapon of Choice and nothing else, being they were in black and white. Even early color issues had them all with red bandannas, only after a few years did they get their distinctive colors. Various incarnations continue to play with tricks to make them stand out from each other: Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation played with the styling of the belts and bandannas (with Michelangelo having frayed edges and Donatello having a full cap), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 gave them all slightly different green skin pigments and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) did some more subtle things like Donatello's chipped tooth.
- Ditto Aliens: The Utroms; Triceratons.
- Divergent Character Evolution: In Issue #1, the turtles were barely distinguishable from each other, each with a similar personality, though Leonardo and Raphael show a few hints of some, but the turtles were defined by the fact they're a parody of Frank Miller style writing. Later installments started adding personality to all four of the turtles, with the adaptations adding colored bandanas to help recognize them without their weapons. The new show takes it even further by giving the Turtles their own body-types, allowing you to distinguish them from each other without the weapons or bandanas.
- Dual Wielding: Three of the four turtles use their weapons in pairs, with Donny being the odd man out. Though since his weapon is a bo staff, it's justified (although his original action figure did come with a pair of bo).
- Elaborate Underground Base: The turtles' lair is usually one of these.
- The End of the World as We Know It: TMNT just wouldn't be the same if this trope were non-existent.
- Every Japanese Sword Is a Katana: Occurs with every ninja-to in the series.
- Except for Leo's swords in the 4Kids cartoon (even though everyone still calls them katana), or the 2007 CGI movie, one might point out...
- In the live-action movies Leo is obviously wielding ninjato.
- The RPG makes a point of defining Leo's swords as a daisho, a set of katana and wakizashi.
- Evil Power Vacuum: Occurs after the Shredder is defeated at the end of the Return to New York arc in the Mirage comic books and in the second cartoon.
- Exposed Extraterrestrials: In all of their incarnations, the turtles are seldom seen wearing anything besides their bandanas and weapons, unless it's part of a disguise.
- Expository Theme Tune: "Splinter taught them to be ninja teens!" "He's a radical rat!"
- Expy: The Ninja Turtles were originally a parody of Daredevil. Splinter was a stand-in for Daredevil's mentor Stick, while the Foot Clan was a parody of the Hand, a secret group of ninjas fought by Daredevil.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Prevalent through all incarnations of the series, to varying degrees. There's also quite a bit of overlap between the disparate fantastic elements.
- Fighting with Chucks: Michaelangelo uses chucks as his primary weapon.
- Fish People: Mona Lisa from the original series' "Raphael Meets His Match"; the fish people from "Sons of the Silent Age".
- For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: The turtles are wont to do this.
- For the Evulz: In the original comics, April asks Baxter Stockman why he is using his Mousers to hold the city for ransom when he has already made a vast fortune with them. He answers that it's fun!
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: In most incarnations, the turtles can be classified in the following manner:
- Leonardo is Melancholic.
- Raphael is Choleric.
- Donatello is Phlegmatic.
- Michelangelo is Sanguine.
- The Future: Plays a significant part in several incarnations, particularly in the Mirage and Archie comics, which had several stories starring future versions of the turtles, and the second cartoon, whose setting for the entire sixth season was the year 2105.
- Genre Savvy: All four of the turtles on occasion, depending on the situation. Michelangelo with his vast knowledge of pop culture usually is the one to reference how something they're dealing with is similar to a movie, tv show, or video game he knows about.
- Genius Bruiser: Leatherhead in the 2k3 incarnation.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the episode "Fallen Angel" in the 4kids series, Leo (in disguise) asks Raphael "What is the deal with humans and clothes?" Raph's response? "You ever see a human in his skivies? Trust me, It's not a pretty sight." So what does Raphael do with his free time?
- Good Republic, Evil Empire: Averted all to hell in the 4Kids series. Both The Federation (humanoids) and The Republic (Triceratons) are pretty nasty.
- Government Agency of Fiction: D.A.R.P.A. in the Mirage comic books and its animated counterpart, the Earth Protection Force.
- Grand Finale: Turtles Forever.
- Have You Come to Gloat?: Happened in the comic. The turtles were being held prison by a crazed whaler who was essentally a Japanese Captain Ahab. When his first mate visits them in the brig, they start cursing at him and one of them shouts, "Come to gloat?" Subverted in that the whaler has actually come down to free them.
- Hero with Bad Publicity: In the 80's cartoon, the turtles were once framed for a crime they didn't commit and nobody believes them, not even April and they have to prove themselves innocent.
- Whenever the 2003 turtles are seen by humans, said humans usually end up running away screaming, notable occasions are when Raph returned a lady's purse only to be told to stay away from her and Mikey's failed attempts at being a hero as he's either given no thanks or mistaken for the perpetrator. In Season 4, Bishop creates a fake alien invasion to trick the President into thinking his organization doesn't deserve to lose all their funding, and afterwards, a news report depicts the turtles as malicious aliens.
- In the 2007 movie, Nightwatcher AKA Raph was either feared or despised for fighting crime and when Leo discovers his secret identity, he gets called out for risking the safety of his keeping his family's existence a secret.
- Highly-Visible Ninja: The turtles, of course. There are other ninjas present too (some of the Shredder's minions for an example) who stand out from the crowd.
- In the Turtles' defense, it's not like they chose to look so recognizable, what with not even being humans to begin with. In fact, in many versions, that's the very reason Splinter trained them to begin with: so they could make up for their appearance and avoid persecution from humans by being stealthy and constantly hiding in the shadow.
- Honor Before Reason: A trait seen in most incarnations of Leonardo. It goes both ways though- either he is commended or, if something goes horribly wrong, grievously injured.
- Also Karai, whose loyalty to the Shredder conflicts with her strong sense of honorable behavior.
- Hot Reporter: April O'Neil.
- Human Aliens: A large part of the Federation, including most of its army.
- If I Can't Have You: The reason why Oroku Nagi beats on Tang Shen in the original comics, and why Oroku Saki and Yukio Mashimi kill her in the movie and the 4Kids cartoon, respectively.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja:
"Hey, are you interested in a cartoon /comic/ movie/ toyline about Teenage Mutant Turtles?"
"What if they were ninjas?"
- Irisless Eye Mask Of Mystery: They originally had Irisless eyemasks to simulate Glowing Eyes of Doom, without actually making their eyes glow. When they gave the turtles visible irises? They looked cute instead, regardless of how menacing they make their faces look. The only other media to retain this look from the comics was the 2003 cartoon (although the 2012 show uses them whenever things get serious).
- Legacy Character: Several people have taken on the Shredder's mantle after besides Oroku Saki, with Karai being the most popular one.
- Lighter and Softer: Fans of either cartoon series who then read the original comic book rarely expect its much darker tone, and may be shocked that the turtles actually kill people.
- And often heartbroken by the issue where Master Splinter dies. Hell, even many fans who started with the comics find it a Tear Jerker.
- Long Runners: 29 years [as of 2013] and still going strong.
- Lost in Imitation: The turtles' tails and red bandannas.
- Love Triangle: Hamato Yoshi, Tang Shen, and Oroku Nagi (or, alternatively, Oroku Saki or Yukio Mashimi, depending on the incarnation) form one of these. Also, Stainless Steve Steel, Dr. Dome, and Battling Bernice.
- The 2012 series is clearly building up to one between Donnie, April, and Casey.
- Mecha-Mooks: Several, most notably The Foot Soldiers in the first animated series.
- Medium Awareness: A regular feature of the first cartoon.
- Merchandise-Driven: TMNT didn't start this way, but it moved in this direction once the toy line became hugely successful. Ironically, it was originally intended as a slightly Darker and Edgier parody of merchandise-driven cartoon series and comics. Then the creators realized it was becoming one, and just rolled with it, and now the series has become the archetype for such franchises. It's even had a parody or two.
- Mistaken for Aliens: Occurs to the turtles a lot, once the existence of aliens is actually made known to the general population.
- Mobile-Suit Human: The alien Utroms used robotic exoskeletons to hide among humans while stranded on Earth. Also used by the Kraang in the 2012 cartoon.
- Monochromatic Eyes: Several incarnations of the turtles—but only when they wear their masks.
- Mooks: Of all stripes, the most common and consistent being the Foot Ninja.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Dome, Dr. Malignus.
- The Multiverse: Turtles Forever, a crossover between the 80s and 2k3 series, introduces the idea that all incarnations of the franchise exist in different dimensions. Destroy the core, that being the Mirage universe, and all will cease to exist.
- Nanomachines: Used by Baxter Stockman in the Mirage comics during a murder attempt on April, and by the turtles in order to foil said attempt. Also used in the 4Kids animated series to form Nano, a sentient nanomachine colony.
- New York Subway: A maze of subway tunnels and storm sewers make up the turtles lair and the labyrinth of entrances and exits.
- Ninja Brat: The turtles are this in any flashback to their childhoods.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Do we really need to explain this one? Besides the obvious, there are also robot ninjas.
- Non-Mammal Mammaries: Venus de Milo has these.
- No Transhumanism Allowed: The 4Kids series has a cyborg and an infomorph, but only villains are non-organic, for the most part. Honeycutt, an uploaded man, is a subversion.
- In the 2010 series, it's hard to find a good guy other than the turtles and Splinter who has become a mutant, or a bad guy who stays human long.
- Popular Saying But: Wise man say: Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.
- Portal Pool: The main method used to enter the Battle Nexus.
- Posthumous Character: Hamato Yoshi, Tang Shen, Oroku Nagi/Yukio Mashimi, and Professor Obligado.
- Powered Armor: The future versions of the turtles wore these for an arc in the Archie comic; the same armor also showed up in an episode of the Fred Wolf 'toon. Also, villains Baxter Stockman and Darius Dun have worn these on occasion.
- Power-Upgrading Deformation: The usual effects of the Ooze are to make creatures smarter or tougher but also uglier Half Human Hybrids.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The original movie and 4Kids cartoon.
- The Professor: Tons: Donatello (when he's not a Teen Genius), Professor Honeycutt, Leatherhead, Glurin, Professor Obligado, Dr. Chaplin... Ironically, the one guy actually called "The Professor", from the 4Kids cartoon, isn't an example.
- Race Lift: Baxter Stockman in the Fred Wolf cartoon and one-shot villain Skonk in the 4Kids cartoon, who were both changed from African Americans to Caucasians.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Raphael and Leonardo. Heck, even their headbands' colors match.
- Also, Michelangelo and Donatello, though to a lesser extent.
- Relationship Upgrade: Occurs with April and Casey at several points in each incarnation.
- Rock Monster: The Rock Warriors from Dimension X.
- Sixth Ranger: Usually April and/or Casey act as the brothers' fifth teammate; the Nick cartoon even subtly hangs a lampshade on April by having her wear a #5 sports jersey. In Next Mutation, it was Venus de Milo.
- Slime Snails And Mutant Tails: All the radioactive waste, mutant friends and foes, ooze etc.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: These guys could give Batman a run for his money at this.
- Stock Ninja Weaponry: Frequently used by the turtles.
- Super Strength: Although it's never really touched upon except in a few instances, all four of the turtles are obviously stronger than most humans. Though when they start battling other mutants, technology and aliens it starts to not matter as much.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: Used or averted, depending on the incarnation. The Fred Wolf animated series and its spin-off comic book use it; the original comic book, movies, and 4Kids animated series generally don't.
- Time Police: Renet and Lord Simultaneous, who form part of a larger, if unseen, organization.
- Title Theme Tune: All of the western cartoon themes.
- Totally Radical: They live in New York City, but sound like a bunch of surfers from Southern California. (Especially Michelangelo, and sometimes—depending on the continuity—excepting Raphael.)
- It's usually only Mikey. Raph has a Brooklyn accent in the films too, and even in the Fred Wolf cartoon series Mikey was the only one to sound like a surfer dude, though they all used "Cowabunga."
- Trademark Favorite Food: Pizza, at least in the Fred Wolf cartoon and movies.
- Though not necessarily true in the 4Kids animated series, it's been alluded to several times. Especially related to Mikey.
- Outside of the Fred Wolf 'toon and movies, every turtle actually has their own favorite food. Leo's is sushi (or some other appropriately Japanese food), Raphael's is cereal, Donatello's is hamburger, and Mikey's is, naturally, pizza. This just doesn't reach Trademark Favorite Food levels and is usually barely mentioned, though in the GBA classic beat 'em up style TMNT movie game, each Turtle is healed by their favorite foods.
- The fourth film gives Splinter one: Cake.
- True Companions: The turtles + Casey and April form this unit, most notably in the movies and 4Kids cartoon.
- Uncanny Family Resemblance: Ananda to Battling Bernice (daughter/mother)
- Vague Age:
- Occurs with several of the characters throughout incarnations, due to a lack of specific dates or starting ages. The mutant ninja turtles are nearly always teenagers. Nearly all fans seem to agree (based on the average confirmed starting ages per post-comic continuity, if given any) that the four are fifteen, and gain a half-year per season or age in real-time (week-for-week).
- The Mirage comics were notable in averting it. The Turtles started out as fifteen (but acted much older) and continued to age pretty much in real time until the present day where they're currently in their 40's and Splinter has since died of old age.
- Video Game Adaptation: Several games were made for TMNT starting with the NES / Famicom game and ending with the latest Arcade game dated 2009!
- Volleying Insults: Done playfully between Casey and Raph in the Mirage comics, in a scene which was later adapted for the first movie and 4Kids cartoon.
- The first movie even turned it into a game with actual rules. Each insult had to start with the next letter of the alphabet from the previous one.
- Web Comics: Online fan comic/manga "MNT Gaiden"
- Weirdness Magnets: Aliens, demons, robots, ninjas, Atlanteans, monsters, corporate executives, crazy people, members of near-extinct races and species, spirits, ghosts, psychics, alive machines, time traveling miscreants, evil AI, gangs, anthropomorphic animals, and many, many mutants.
- Widget Series: Seriously, the only reason this franchise makes any sense is because we're so used to it.