Teenage Mutant Samurai Wombats
aka: Secret Mutant Hero Team
A common western action cartoon format that was very popular in the 1980s and 1990s (after the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles spawned
a crop of imitators
) and still continues to this day.
The format is more or less this: A team of heroic monsters (aliens, mutants, or magical beings) are somehow created, awakened, or arrived in the modern world. Usually a modern American city. They are honorable creatures who set out to fight crime
. The average person fears them for their appearance, and they must hide from Muggles
or humans. However, they befriend one or two open-minded humans, usually either children or career women. These women or children end up being the team's friends and guides to modern Earth, and are Secret Keepers
, and may also be the Kid with the Leash
. Together, they all fight supervillains and evil creatures in a City of Adventure
Since these shows are usually aimed at young boys, expect The Smurfette Principle
to be in full swing. The heroes are usually The Last of Their Kind
, with no femalesnote
. Consequently, Interspecies Romance
will usually be explored, particularly by fans
, especially if the Secret Keeper
is a career woman.
The Secret Keeper
will often be hiding them
in the beginning, but since the monstrous team is usually a Five-Man Band
or Power Trio
, they usually get their own headquarters. It's a good thing that Abandoned Warehouse
/office building/ornate palace was around!
These series tend to be Merchandise-Driven
Not to be confused with Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot
, though the Rule of Cool
often plays a role.
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Anime and Manga
- The Japanese Microman anime.
- This was actually the format for Sonic X, with Sonic and his Furry pals as the "monsters" (albeit cute ones) and the Thorndyke family as their human allies. This was ostensibly to give the audience a human identification character — Chris. They quickly dropped The Masquerade though, and Sonic became an instant celebrity.
- Implied with the theme song for Samurai Pizza Cats, although the actual show doesn't follow any of the trope's characteristics.
- Going way, way back, the original X-Men basically started off this way, minus the pet human.
- Conversational Troping in an early-90s issue of Green Lantern set at a toy expo: "Buddy, every ten minutes I've got someone trying to sell me 'the new Turtles'. I've a warehouse full of stupid dinosaurs named after dead presidents!"
- Many other anthropomorphic animal superhero comics which were "inspired" by the Turtles. They spawned a bunch of "adjective, adjective, adjective, noun" anthropomorphic imitations/parodies, but those were mostly dreamed up by fans and wannabe pros looking to cash in (TMNT #1 was VERY rare and up to $2-300 in demand). This didn't stop until it crashed the comic market (the famous "black and white implosion" which was a dry run for the Dork Age market collapse).
- Mini-Comics Included is a series of mini-comics based on toylines that aren't real but could easily have been; Prime-8s, about a squad of 8 intelligent, superpowered apes and monkeys, is partially based on TMNT and this trope in general. This group was a little larger than most, and had two females.
- In a back-up story of a Count Duckula comic book (Marvel), Danger Mouse faces Enraged Mutant Ninja Poodles.
- Often parodied on Late Night With Conan O'Brien, where Conan's mock fall previews often feature programs such as Embryonic Rockabilly Polka-Dotted Fighter Pilots or Country Cuckoo-Clock Codpiece Zulu Warriors.
- Non-cartoon example: Beauty and the Beast.
- The live-action show Dark Angel was similar in premise, with the exception that most of the Chimera could at least pass for human (with the notable exception of Joshua in season 2). Nevertheless, Logan acted as a Secret Keeper for Max and the rest.
- In-show commercials in the first episode of Roundhouse gave us these parody titles: "Adolescent Deformed Tai-Kwon-Do Tortoises", "Pre-teen Genetically-altered Martial Arts Iguanas", and "Kinda Young Really Screwed Up Karate Koalas".
- In the wake of the craze, Ray Stevens recorded "Teenage Mutant Kung Fu Chickens", about a quartet of fighting chickens.
- How Green Was My Cactus occasionally had episodes featuring the "Stone Age Mutant Whinging Liberals"
- The Battletoads from the videogame of the same name. Unique in that it doesn't follow many of the sub-tropes, instead taking place in a world that looks like it came from a heavy metal record cover.
- Parodied in the old adventure game The Big Red Adventure. One TV showed the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Beetles", who were four cockroaches with the faces of the Fab Four!
- The Cheetahmen from Action 52.
- Paper Mario features the blatantly obvious Ninjakoopa Bros.
- The anime parody Japanoschlampen by Coldmirror features the NINJAMUTANTDUCKS!
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the Trope Codifier, of course — with April O'Neil, Casey Jones, and Irma Langenstein (and later on, Carter) as the human allies.
- The original Transformers — with the Witwicky family as the human allies.
- Although the Autobots never really hid from anyone in the original series. They were acknowledged by the world's leaders as early as the end of the three-part pilot.
- In the TV show, that is. In the comic, the world remained fearful of all Transformers, regardless of faction. The Autobots had a few reliable human allies like Buster Witwicky and G.B. Blackrock, but they were few and far between.
- Transformers Animated is more in line with this trope, featuring Sari as the kid, a smaller Five 'Bot Band, and an abandoned Detroit car factory as their HQ. The Autobots still don't hide from anyone, though; in fact, they rather visibly help repair the damage their fights cause, which helps keep them in the city's good graces.
- Played straight with Transformers Prime.
- Gargoyles — with Elisa Maza as their human ally. Gargoyles was one of the few shows to acknowledge that a situation like this simply can't last forever, and slowly had the Gargoyles transition from complete secret, to urban myth, to publicly known... and feared.
- Street Sharks — with a Surfer Dude as their human ally. (The Sharks themselves used to be human surfers as well... it's complicated.)
- Mummies Alive! Centuries old Mummies able to summon Powered Armor, one of them a Sweet Polly ... Cleopatra?... Ride around in weird ancient Egyptian vehicles and got an Egyptian version of a boomerang whilst protecting a child reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh from an advisor of said Pharaoh.
- Biker Mice from Mars — allied with Charley, a Wrench Wench mechanic whose garage they live in. One of them has a crush on her, as she reminds him of a girl back home.
- Toxic Crusaders, the kid-friendly animated Spin-Off of the Toxic Avenger movies.
- Dinosaucers, in which good and evil teams of evolved dinosaurs engage in more-or-less comic battles on modern day Earth. The good guys have a bunch of human teenagers as their Secret Keepers.
- The Mighty Ducks cartoon, which may as well been called "Hockey-Playing Twentysomething Extraterrestrial Mallards". About a group of anthropomorphic ducks from a world surronded by puck-shaped asteroids where hockey is Serious Business (...you mean they're Canadian? *rimshot*) fighting space dragons and posing as a regular hockey team in modern-day California. No, really.
- To be fair, they 'pose' as a hockey team by actually playing hockey in a league. But they still fight space dragons and villains-of-the-week. They're pretty much outed as aliens in the first few episodes.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force spoofs this. (Or at least the title does.)
- Parodied in Tiny Toon Adventures, in which Plucky is a fan of the "Immature Radioactive Samurai Slugs" franchise.
- The initial Five-Episode Pilot of Challenge of the GoBots was like this. Since the Gobots' cover has been completely blown by the end of that Story Arc (it's not as if Leader-1 didn't try to observe the Obstructive Code of Conduct at first), subsequent episodes show the Guardians interacting with Earth's people and governments completely out in the open.
- The Darkstalkers cartoon, with Felicia, Jon Talbain, Sasquatch, Rikuo, and later Hsien-Ko as the good guys, with a wizard named Harry and a butler named Klaus as human allies. Pyron, Demitri, Raptor, Anakaris, and even Morrigan were bad guys, and Bishamon, Donovan, and Hutzil showed up as neutrals.
- The 1993 series Stone Protectors attempted to market the troll doll craze to grade school boys. The heroes are an awful Fake Band from New York City who are transformed into troll-like super heroes by magical crystals, then have to protect the crystals from the Saurians, reptilian bad guys who would use their powers for evil. The problem of hiding the conflict from the public is averted because the heroes are quickly transported to the Magical Land where the crystals came from.
- There were also Trollz, produced about 10 years later, which did the same thing, but for a female audience (read: It ripped off Winx Club and Sailor Moon instead of the TMNT.)
- Adventures of the Gummi Bears might count... only it's pseudo-medieval instead of modern day, and it averts The Smurfette Principle.
- Kung Fu Dino Posse, a 40-episode cartoon series that aired on Starz in 2009, is an homage to several Secret Mutant Hero Teams before it, including the Street Sharks spinoff Extreme Dinosaurs and TMNT. In modern times, a quirky science geek accidentally thaws out four anthropomorphic dinosaurs, whereupon they inflict inexplicable Kung Fu upon evil raptor villains and their army of generic mutants. The series is well aware of its own cliches and often leverages them for comic effect.
- Bucky O'Hare was this In Space, with the strange twist that the anthropomorphic animals are the norm, and it's the human character that has to be kept hidden from that reality's "muggles".
- Parodied in The Fairly Oddparents movie "Channel Chasers", where one of the TV shows Timmy travels through is "Adolescent Genetically-Altered Karate Cows".